Immigrant Luis Eduardo Ramirez

Immigrant Luis Eduardo Ramirez

Immigrant Luis Eduardo Ramirez

March 16, 1983 – July 14, 2008

Luis Ramirez had came to the U.S. from Mexico in 2002 when he was 19 to look for work. He settled in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania about 80 miles northwest of Philadelphia where other Mexicans had found field and factory work.

Ramirez found steady employment, fathered two children and, occasionally endured harassment by long-time white residents.

Immigrant Luis Eduardo Ramirez

Shenandoah, PA

On July 12, 2008, a group of Shenandoah Valley High School Blue Devils football players beat Luis Ramirez. 

Shenandoah Borough Manager Joseph Palubinsky said he did not believe Ramirez’s ethnicity was what prompted the fight: “I have reason to know the kids who were involved, the families who were involved, and I’ve never known them to harbor this type of feeling.”

Immigrant Luis Eduardo Ramirez

On July 14: Ramirez died from head injuries.

Immigrant Luis Eduardo Ramirez


Derrick Donchak, Brandon Piekarsky,and Colin Walsh,

On July 25 police arrested Brandon Piekarsky, 19, and Colin Walsh, 17, both white.  

The attack drew condemnation from immigrants’ rights groups, who  held vigils in Shenandoah.

The Justice Department opened an investigation into the case.

August 19, 2008: State Judge Anthony Kilker ruled that prosecutors had enough evidence to try Walsh and Piekarsky on charges of third-degree murder and ethnic intimidation. Donchak was ordered to stand trial on aggravated assault, ethnic intimidation and other counts.

August 26, 2008:  bail was set at $50,000 each for Piekarsky and Walsh. They had been held without bail since their arrests on July 25.

A third defendant, Derrick Donchak was charged with aggravated assault and other offenses. He posted bail soon after his arrest. (NYT article)

November 27, 2008:  Judge, William Baldwin of Schuylkill County, ruled that charges of third-degree murder against Piekarsky and Walsh were warranted. Baldwin also let stand the aggravated-assault count against  Donchak, but dismissed a hindering-apprehension charge against him.

The three were also charged with ethnic intimidation because the authorities say the attack on Ramirez was racially motivated. (NYT article)

Immigrant Luis Eduardo Ramirez

Walsh Guilty plea

April 8, 2009, : Colin Walsh pleaded guilty to one felony violation of the Federal Fair Housing Act for his role in aiding and abetting Piekarsky and  Donchak in the beating death. 

April 21, 2009: local charges were dropped against Walsh because he had entered the guilty plea to charges in federal court. (NYT article)

April 28, 2009: Walsh testified against Piekarsky and Donchak. When asked on the witness stand, Walsh said that his federal deal called for nine years in federal prison, but that he could be out in four because of his cooperation. (NYT article)

Immigrant Luis Eduardo Ramirez

All-white jury

May 2, 2009:  an all-white jury acquitted Piekarsky  of third-degree murder and ethnic intimidation, and Derrick Donchak of aggravated assault and ethnic intimidation.

Both were convicted of simple assault.

Prosecutors had described Luis Ramirez as the victim of a gang of drunken white teenagers motivated by their dislike of their small coal town’s burgeoning Hispanic population.

Defense lawyers called Ramirez the aggressor and accused the district attorney’s office of twisting the facts. (NYT article)

Immigrant Luis Eduardo Ramirez

Following PA trial

A May 16, 2009:  NYT article described several incidents in Shenandoah following the trial.  Several white students threatened Felix Bermejo that he was next.  The car of Eileen Burke was egged. Burke, a former Philadelphia police officer, had said she believed that local police had mishandled the case. A fight broke out between a white group and a mixed black and Latino group.

June 19, 2009: Judge William Baldwin of Schuylkill County sentenced each sentenced Piekarsky and Donchakto at least six months behind bars.  Baldwin said that the sentences exceeded the usual sentencing guidelines but that they reflected the “absolute brutality and viciousness” of the attack on Ramirez. Baldwin also said he could not consider the racial overtones of the case and the fact that Ramirez died. (NYT article)

Immigrant Luis Eduardo Ramirez

Federal government steps in

December 15, 2009: federal prosecutors charged Police Chief Matthew Nestor, Lt. William Moyer, and Officer Jason Hayes with obstruction of justice in connection with their handling of the investigation of the beating death of Ramirez.

Piekarsky and Donchakto were indicted on federal hate crime charges.

The officers were called to the scene of the beating on the night, but prosecutors alleged they were closely linked to the boys: Hayes was in a relationship with Piekarsky’s mother who was also a good friend of Nestor, while Moyer’s son played in the football team with the students. (NYT article)

The officers were alleged to have let the students go, even given them lifts in a police car away from the crime scene. They then encouraged them to “get their story straight” and tampered with evidence to make their detection more difficult. (Guardian article)

December 22, 2009: in federal court, Piekarsky and  Derrick Piekarsky and Donchak were arraigned in Wilkes-Barre, PA, charged with hate crimes. They  pleaded not guilty. (NYT article)

Immigrant Luis Eduardo Ramirez


October 14, 2010: the federal jury in Scranton, PA convicted Donchak and Piekarsky of a hate crime arising out of the fatal beating of Ramirez.

The jury found the defendants guilty of violating the criminal component of the federal Fair Housing Act, which makes it a crime to use a person’s race, national origin or ethnicity as a basis to interfere, with violence or threats of violence, with a person’s right to live where he chooses to live. 

A jury had previously acquitted both of murder charges in state court and convicted of simple assault.

“…people attacked one person because of his race and because they didn’t want people like him living in their town,” prosecutor Myesha K. Braden had said during her closing argument.

Witnesses had testified that racist language was used before and during the attack and that Ramirez was kicked in the head repeatedly after falling down. The defendants, they said, didn’t want immigrants in their neighborhood and repeatedly ordered Ramirez to leave.

Local authorities helped cover Local authorities helped cover up the incident. Braden said, “They hatched a plan to leave out the kick, to leave out the race and even to leave out the drinking.” (NYT article) (for sentencing, see February 27, 2011 below)

Immigrant Luis Eduardo Ramirez

Police trial

Former Police Chief Matthew Nestor, Patroman Jason Hayes and Lt William Moyer

January 13, 2011, the trial of officers Nestor, Hayes, and Moyer on charges of obstructing justice in the beating death of Ramirez began. (NYT article)

January 27, 2011: a federal jury convicted Matthew Nestor, the  Shenandoah police chief at the time of the murder, of the most serious charge against him in what prosecutors said was a cover-up of the beating death of Ramirez.

The jury delivered a less severe verdict against a Moyer and acquitted a Hayes.

Authorities had accused the former officers, Matthew Nestor, Jason Hayes and William Moyer, of helping a group of the white teenagers cover up their parts in the beating death Ramírez.

Nestor was found guilty of falsifying records, a charge that could bring up to 20 years in prison, but he was acquitted of conspiracy. Moyer, a former Shenandoah lieutenant, was convicted of lying to the F.B.I., but acquitted of all other counts, including obstruction of justice, and he faced up to five years in prison. Hayes, a former patrolman, was acquitted of all charges. (NYT article)

Immigrant Luis Eduardo Ramirez


February 27, 2011: a judge sentenced Derrick Donchak and Brandon Piekarsky to nine years in prison.  (CNN article)

June 1, 2011: Judge A. Richard Caputo of Federal District Court in Wilkes-Barre, Pa sentenced Nestor 13 months in prison–a lower-than-expected term.

Caputo  said the sentencing guidelines were too harsh for Nestor. A pre sentencing report by probation officials had recommended 57 to 71 months.

Caputo sentenced Moyer to three months. (PennLive article)

June 18, 2012:  a three-judge panel decided that Donchak and  Piekarsky must stay in federal prison for their hate-crime convictions.

In a 34-page opinion, the panel ruled there was no basis to overturn the convictions of either Donchak or Piekarsky.

“We therefore affirm the final conviction, judgment and sentence,” U.S. Circuit Judge Julio M. Fuentes wrote in the court’s opinion, which was joined by the other panel members, U.S. Chief Circuit Judge Theodore A. McKee and U.S. Circuit Judge Kent A. Jordan. (Republican Herald article)

Immigrant Luis Eduardo Ramirez


April 20, 2013: David Turnley’s documentary”Shenandoah” released.  A NYT article stated that, “Turnley spent four years burrowing into the lives of people on all sides of the story, whether the burly football players who participated in the attack, their parents who struggled to understand it, or Mr. Ramirez’s family both in Shenandoah and in Mexico.”

October 17, 2013: a unanimous three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed the federal hate-crime convictions of Donchak and Piekarsky.

Immigrant Luis Eduardo Ramirez

MLK Jr Montgomery March

MLK Jr Montgomery March


While most of us are familiar with the 1965 March to Montgomery, we may not be familiar with the spark that led to that famous, sometimes brutal, demonstration in support of voter registration.

Authorities had arrested and jailed the Rev James Orange in Perry County, Alabama on charges of disorderly conduct and contributing to the delinquency of minors. What had Orange specifically done? He had enlisted students to aid in voting rights drives.

Fearful that authorities might allow a lynching, on the night of February 18, around 500 people left Zion United Methodist Church in Marion and attempted a peaceful walk to the Perry County Jail about a half a block away where Orange was being held. The marchers planned to sing hymns and return to the church.

A line of Marion City police officers, sheriff’s deputies, and Alabama State Troopers met the marchers met at the Post Office. In the standoff, authorities had suddenly turned off the streetlights and the police began to beat the protestors. Among those beaten were two United Press International photographers, whose cameras were smashed, and NBC News correspondent Richard Valeriani, who was beaten so badly that he was hospitalized.

The marchers turned and scattered back towards the church.

Pursued by Alabama State Troopers, twenty-six-year-old Jimmie Lee Jackson, his mother Viola Jackson, and his 82-year-old grandfather, Cager Lee, ran into a Mack’s Café behind the church. Police clubbed Cager Lee to the floor in the kitchen. The police continued to beat the cowering octogenarian Lee, and when his daughter Viola attempted to pull the police off. They beat her.

When Jimmie Lee attempted to protect his mother, one trooper threw him against a cigarette machine. A second trooper shot Jimmie Lee twice in the abdomen.

Martin Luther King Jr Montgomery March
Jimmie Lee Jackson funeral

Jimmie Lee Jackson died at Good Samaritan Hospital in Selma on February 26.  When civil rights organizer, James Bevel, heard of Jackson’s death he called for a march from Selma to Montgomery to talk to Governor George Wallace about the attack in which Jackson was shot. (see WW article on the long long road to justice for Jackson’s killer)

MLK Jr Montgomery March

The first attempt: Bloody Sunday

Martin Luther King Jr Montgomery March

So, on Sunday 7 March 1965 about six hundred people left the Brown Chapel AME Church in Selma for a 54-mile march to the state capital of Montgomery. 

Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s Hosea Williams and Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee’s John Lewis led them. A number of newsmen witnessed the long column of freedom singing marchers as they approached the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the gateway out of Selma.

Roughly 100 State Troopers, commanded by Major John Cloud, blocked the opposite end of the bridge. Hosea Williams tried to speak with Cloud twice, but the major said “There is no word to be had…you have two minutes to turn around and go back to your church.

Within a minute, authorities attacked the marchers with tear gas, billy clubs,  and charging horsemen. The incident was seen on national television. 16 marchers ended up in the hospital and another 50 received emergency treatment.

Media dubbed the incident “Bloody Sunday.” 

MLK Jr Montgomery March

The second attempt:  Turnaround Tuesday

On March 9, 1965, Martin Luther  King, Jr led another march to the Edmund Pettus Bridge. About 2,000 people, more than half of them white and about a third members of the clergy, participated. King led the march to the bridge, then told the protesters to disperse. 

That night White supremacists beat up white Unitarian Universalist minister  James Reeb in Selma. Reeb died on March 11.  (NYT abstract)

MKL Jr Montgomery March

In April 1965, four men – Elmer Cook, William Stanley Hoggle, Namon O’Neal Hoggle, and R.B. Kelley – were indicted in Dallas County, Alabama for Reeb’s murder; three were acquitted by an all-white jury after a 95 minute deliberation that December. The fourth man fled to Mississippi and was not returned by the state authorities for trial.

MLK Jr Montgomery March


After the Turnaround Tuesday event and disagreeing with the the SCLC’s strategy in Selma, James Forman and much of the SNCC staff moved to Montgomery and began a series of demonstrations. The group also asked for students from across the country to join them. Tuskegee Institute students came to Montgomery in an attempt to deliver a petition to Wallace.

MLK Jr Montgomery March

Montgomery demonstrations

March 11, 1965: police arrested James Forman, executive director of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and others for blocking traffic on Capitol Hill after they had failed in an attempt to approach the State House. (NYT article)

On March 13, 1965 President Johnson met with Alabama’s Governor Wallace to decry the brutality surrounding the protests and asked him to mobilize the Alabama National Guard to protect demonstrators. 

March 14, 1965: SNCC staff members led 400 Alabama State University students, joined by a group of white students from across the country, on a march from the ASU campus to the Capitol. Although Montgomery police react peacefully to the march, as the students approach the Capitol, state troopers, the sheriff’s office, and a posse it had deputized attack the marchers.

That same day,  fifteen thousand persons, including nuns, priests, ministers, rabbis, members of civil rights organizations, trade unionists and students, marched through Harlem, NYC to protest the events in Selma. (NYT article)

March 15: President Johnson spoke to a joint session of Congress calling for a voting rights act. (NYT transcript of speech)

March 16, 1965: police clashed with 600 SNCC marchers.

March 17, 1965: despite their disagreements, SCLC Martin Luther King, Jr joined SNCC  James Foreman in leading a march of 2000 people in Montgomery to the Montgomery County courthouse.

After the march, King announced a third Selma-to-Montgomery march. The City of Montgomery officials apologized for the assault on SNCC protesters by county and state law enforcement and asked King and Forman to work with them on how best to deal with future protests in the city; student leaders promised they would seek permits for future protest marches. Gov. Wallace continued to arrest protestors who ventured on to state-controlled property.

March 18, 1965: a federal judge ruled that SCLC had the right to march to Montgomery, AL to petition for ‘redress of grievances’.

March 20, 1965: President Lyndon B. Johnson notified Alabama’s Governor George Wallace that he would use federal authority to call up the Alabama National Guard in order to supervise the planned civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery.

MLK Jr Montgomery March

Third attempt

March 22, 1965: 3,200 civil rights demonstrators, led by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., and under protection of a federalized National Guard, began a third attempt at a week-long march from Selma, Alabama, to the state capitol at Montgomery in support of voting rights.

March 25, 1965:   after four days and nights on the road,  25,000 were refused permission to give a petition to Governor Wallace. The petition read: “We have come not only five days and 50 miles but we have come from three centuries of suffering and hardship. We have come to you, the Governor of Alabama, to declare that we must have our freedom NOW. We must have the right to vote; we must have equal protection of the law and an end to police brutality.”

During the rally that followed the refusal by the Governor of Alabama, Governor Wallace. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated “We are not about to turn around. We, are on the move now. Yes, we are on the move and no wave of racism can stop us.”  The speech became known as the “How long? Not Long” speech or as, “Our God is Marching On.” (text of speech)

MKL Jr Montgomery March

Viola Liuzzo

Viola Liuzzo had come from Michigan to participate in the protest.  After King’s speech in Montgomery, she helped drive some of the marches back to Selma. On the way a car pulled up beside her. Someone in the car shot and killed her. See Liuzzo for her sad story.


On August 6, 1965, after a long often bitter Congressional fight, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 guaranteeing African Americans the right to vote. The bill made it illegal to impose restrictions on federal, state and local elections that were designed to deny the vote to blacks., making it easier for Southern blacks to register to vote. Literacy tests, poll taxes, and other such requirements that were used to restrict black voting were made illegal.

MLK Jr Montgomery March

We Know the March Is Not Yet Over

March 7, 2015: President Obama and a host of political figures from both parties came to Selma to reflect on how far the country had come and how far it still had to go.

Fifty years after peaceful protesters trying to cross a bridge were beaten by police officers with billy clubs, shocking the nation and leading to passage of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965, the nation’s first African-American president led a bipartisan, biracial testimonial to the pioneers whose courage helped pave the way for his own election to the highest office of the land.

But coming just days after Mr. Obama’s Justice Department excoriated the police department of Ferguson, Mo., as a hotbed of racist oppression, even as it cleared a white officer in the killing of an unarmed black teenager, the anniversary seemed more than a commemoration of long-ago events on a black-and-white newsreel. Instead, it provided a moment to measure the country’s far narrower, and yet stubbornly persistent, divide in black-and-white reality. [NYT article]

MLK Jr Montgomery March

Composer Richard Festinger

Composer Richard Festinger

Born March 1, 1948

Composer Richard Festinger


If you look around his web page, you’d never know that Richard Festinger played guitar with Joan Baez at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair.

You would find out that on April 8, 2017 the Boston Musica Viva performed his A Serenade for Six at 8:00 pm, Edward Pickman Hall, Longy School of Music in Cambridge, MA.

Composer Richard Festinger


You would also find that “Richard Festinger’s music has been performed throughout the United States, and in Europe and Asia. His works have been composed for numerous ensembles, including Parnassus, Earplay, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, the New York New Music Ensemble, the Alexander String Quartet, the City Winds, the Laurel Trio, the Left Coast Ensemble, the Alter Ego Ensemble,…

The list continues on for several more lines.

Composer Richard Festinger

Uptown circles

How does one go from Woodstock to there? Not all historic events are personally historic and perhaps Woodstock wasn’t so much a turning point, as simply a stop along the way.

Restinger was born on March 1, 1948 in Newton, Massachusetts. Josh Levin in a 2010 article in Journal of he Society for American Music wrote that Restinger “has been a well-respected figure on the American contemporary music scene for three decades, especially in the ‘uptown’ circles of New York City and in his native San Francisco Bay area.”

Composer Richard Festinger

Post Woodstock

After Woodstock, according to Wikipedia, “intent on pursuing a performing career in jazz, he attended the Berklee School of Music in Boston, where he studied composition with Herb Pomeroy and improvisation with Gary Burton.”

He was there between 1970 and 1972.

He returned to California in 1972  where he had previously studied at Stanford University between 1965 and 1968 and in 1976 received a BM from San Francisco University.

Composer Richard Festinger

More degrees

He continued his studies and received an MA in Music Composition from the University of California, Berkeley in June 1978 and five years later his Ph.D in Music Composition also from Berkeley.

Composer Richard Festinger

Full CV

Composer Richard Festinger

His complete CV is at his site. It is an amazing listing of outstanding accomplishments: administrative positions, positions held, a list of works (dozens), published music, recordings, grants, awards, honors, and residencies.

He was the Composer in Residence, Bogliasco Foundation, Liguria Study Center for Arts and Letters, Bogliasco,  Italy, October-November 2016.

And on October 22, 2018, the Fromm Music Foundation announced that it had awarded a 2018 Fromm Commission to Richard Festinger to compose a work for chorus and orchestra for the Boston based Cantata Singers.

His music continues to be played.

Composer Richard Festinger