By Lori Haught
During the day the sky was gray, just like the issue. By nightfall, the sky was black, and passersby and participants in the memorial for Adrienne Shelly only saw black and white where immigration was concerned.
New Yorkers for Immigration Control and Enforcement, or ICE, held a tribute for Shelly on Nov. 29 in front of 15 Abingdon Square, the scene of her Nov. 1 murder.
Diego Pillco, 19, an illegal immigrant who was doing construction work beneath the apartment where Shelly had her office space, has been charged with her murder. After Shelly, 40, complained about the construction noise, reports say she threatened to call the police and Pillco punched her, knocking her unconscious. He then hung her in the bathtub to make it look like a suicide; she died from suffocation due to the hanging.
Shelly lived in Tribeca with her husband, Andrew Ostroy, and their 3-year-old daughter.
Joanna Marzullo, 33, leader of the memorial and ICE, said that the organization had tried to contact Shelly’s husband, but he had not gotten back to them. She did say that members of the extended family were happy to have attention drawn to the murder, but wouldn’t comment as to their opinion on immigration.
Marzullo refused to identify the members of Shelly’s family she claimed to have contacted, and Ostroy did not respond to e-mails requesting comment.
“We represent the views of millions of Americans who aren’t coming out to speak,” Marzullo said, standing with about a half dozen members of the organization.
She said ICE’s current goal is to focus attention on companies that are employing illegal immigrants and increase the awareness of immigration enforcement. The group has grown to 50 members since its foundation a little less than a year ago.
Other than members of ICE, the memorial brought out people who knew the victim or were merely against illegal immigration.
“I am angry at my government for letting the illegals come into my country,” said Jim Behan, a book vendor who had come out to show his respects and was handing out fliers with information on murders committed by illegal immigrants. He is not a member of ICE but has begun a petition to stop the flow of immigrants into the country.
Neighbors of Shelly’s from 15 Abingdon Square who knew her, like Sara Moore, also attended the rally.
“I knew her casually,” said Moore, who has lived in the building since 1963. “She was very beautiful.”
Moore said she felt horrible after the murder. “I usually go out to get the paper every day, but that day I didn’t feel well so I didn’t go,” she said. “Maybe if I had I would have seen or heard something.”
To some, however, the tribute sounded like it was less about Shelly and more about furthering ICE’s agenda.
“I think it’s opportunistic and gross that these people would try to capitalize on a tragedy and push forward their own anti-immigration agenda,” Norman Eng of the New York Immigration Coalition said in a telephone interview.
For most of the memorial, the participants solemnly and quietly held candles, but an argument did break out between three passersby and a female anti-immigration advocate, who said that illegal immigrants are murderers and thieves.
Two college-age girls who were talking with other participants accused the woman of being “filled with hate.” It escalated when another man walking by overheard the conversation and accused the woman of being a racist.
“I don’t care what race they are!” she screamed.
“You are blanketing a whole group of people,” the man retorted. “That’s racism.”
Eventually, the man walked on and the two younger women had already left. One of the other attendees of the memorial a resident of 15 Abingdon Square went over to the woman and tried to talk reason into her. He explained that if she wanted people who are politically moderate to understand her point of view she would have to modify her argument.
Already mad, she screamed at the man, “There is no argument: What’s legal is good, what’s illegal is bad.”
“One hundred years ago, it was illegal for women to vote or for black people to sit in the front of the bus,” the man countered.
The woman said the man’s points made no sense.