When I started The
But earlier this month, one of Singh’s attackers went to court, and that was the catalyst for starting to research the story.
The the hearing, Aleksandr Shevchenko was told appear back in court next month.
Shevchenko is accused of being part of a group that allegedly used racial and homophobic slurs toward Satender Singh in July at Lake Natoma. A brawl ensued and Singh was severely beaten. He later died from head injuries.
Investigators say Shevchenko didn’t throw the punch that killed Singh but contributed to the crime.
What I found out made it even more convincing as a hate crime.
According to witnesses, Singh’s attackers, one of whom — the one who threw the fatal punch — fled to Russia and is still a fugitive from justice, boasted of belonging to a Russian evangelical church and that Singh and his friends should join a “good church” like theirs.
On the first day of July, Satender Singh was gay-bashed to death. The 26-year-old Fijian of Indian descent was enjoying a holiday weekend outing at Lake Natoma with three married Indian couples around his age. Singh was delicate and dateless — two facts that did not go unnoticed by a party of Russian-speaking immigrants two picnic tables away.
According to multiple witnesses, the men began loudly harassing Singh and his friends, calling them “7-Eleven workers” and “Sodomites.” The Slavic men bragged about belonging to a Russian evangelical church and told Singh that he should go to a “good church” like theirs. According to Singh’s friends, the harassers sent their wives and children home, then used their cell phones to summon several more Slavic men. The members of Singh’s party, which included a woman six months pregnant, became afraid and tried to leave. But the Russian-speaking men blocked them with their bodies.
The pregnant woman said she didn’t want to fight them.
“We don’t want to fight you either,” one of them replied in English. “We just want your faggot friend.”
I haven’t found any reports saying exactly which church Singh’s attackers belong to, could be one of several. And it’s likely to have connections to a Slavic Evangelical group called “The Watchmen on the Walls.”
A growing and ferocious anti-gay movement in the Sacramento Valley is centered among Russian- and Ukrainian-speaking immigrants. Many of them are members of an international extremist anti-gay movement whose adherents call themselves the Watchmen on the Walls. In Latvia, the Watchmen are popular among Christian fundamentalists and ethnic Russians, and are known for presiding over anti-gay rallies where gays and lesbians are pelted with bags of excrement. In the Western U.S., the Watchmen have a following among Russian-speaking evangelicals from the former Soviet Union. Members are increasingly active in several cities long known as gay-friendly enclaves, including Sacramento, Seattle and Portland, Ore.
Vlad Kusakin, the host of a Russian-language anti-gay radio show in Sacramento and the publisher of a Russian-language newspaper in Seattle, told The Seattle Times in January that God has “made an injection” of high numbers of anti-gay Slavic evangelicals into traditionally liberal West Coast cities. “In those places where the disease is progressing, God made a divine penicillin,” Kusakin said.
And then I came upon a “blast from the past” in the form of Scott Lively.
Last April in Salem, Ore., more than 700 Russian-speaking teenagers rallied outside the state Capitol against a pair of gay rights bills. It was the largest anti-gay protest to take place in Oregon’s sleepy capital city since 1992, when the anti-gay Oregon Citizens Alliance (OCA) pushed a ballot initiative that came within a few percentage points of rewording the state constitution to declare gay people “abnormal, wrong, unnatural and perverse” and requiring the state to fire all openly gay or lesbian public school teachers.
The executive director of the OCA at that time was Scott Lively, a longtime anti-gay activist who is now the chief international envoy for the Watchmen movement. Lively also is the former director of the California chapter of the anti-gay American Family Association and the founder of both Defend the Family Ministries and the Pro-Family Law Center, which claims to be the country’s “only legal organization devoted exclusively to opposing the homosexual political agenda.”
…Lively identifies “the enemy” as not only homosexuals, but also what he terms “homosexualists,” a category that includes anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, who “actively promotes homosexuality as morally and socially equivalent to heterosexuality as a basis for social policy.”
When he personally confronts the enemy, Lively practices what he preaches when it comes to “battle-hardened” tactics. He recently was ordered by a civil court judge to pay $20,000 to lesbian photojournalist Catherine Stauffer for dragging her by the hair through the halls of a Portland church in 1991.
I remember Scott Lively because when moved to D.C. in 1994, my first job was for HRC, in their campaign to fight the anti-gay ballot initiatives in Oregon and Idaho. Occasionally, as part of my job, I collected information and documents to pass on to the opposition research person. It was then that I came across Scott Lively’s work in the form of The Pink Swastika.
Lively occasionally writes for Chalcedon Report, a journal published by the Chalcedon Foundation, the leading Christian Reconstructionist organization in the country. (Reconstructionists typically call for the imposition of Old Testament law, including such draconian punishments as stoning to death active homosexuals and children who curse their parents, on the United States.) But he’s most famous as the co-author of The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party.
Published in 1995, the book is a breathtaking work of Holocaust revisionism. It asserts that Hitler was gay — a claim no serious historian supports — and that Hitler and other evil gay fascists were central in forming the Nazi Party, operating the Third Reich and orchestrating the Holocaust. (Lively’s most recent book, The Poisoned Stream, similarly details “a dark and powerful homosexual presence” through “the Spanish Inquisition, the French ‘Reign of Terror,’ the era of South African apartheid, and the two centuries of American Slavery.”)
The Pink Swastika — whose cover has a swastika in place of the “x” in “homosexuality” in the book’s subtitle — has been roundly discredited by legitimate historians and was thoroughly debunked in a 2005 Intelligence Report article. Stephen Feinstein, director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies at the University of Minnesota, said the book was “produced by a right-wing Christian cult and is as correct as flat earth theory.”
It shouldn’t be much of a surprise to find Lively speaking in support of Singh’s attackers, then. Right?
Right. Note the applause after Lively speaks of Vusik punching Satendar Singh. Note the applause after Lively says that Satendar Singh died as a result of his injuries. Note how Lively corrects his audience’s immediate response, which he must know comes across as horrifying, coming from the supposedly “godly” audience he’s addressing. Whether he would have corrected them if the cameras were not rolling I don’t know. But who whipped them into such a fervor that they would applaud the beating and murder of a gay man?
Nevertheless, The Pink Swastika has become Lively’s passport to fame among anti-gay church leaders and their followers in Eastern Europe, as well as Russian-speaking anti-gay activists in America. Lively frequently speaks about the book and his broader anti-gay agenda in churches, police academies and television news studios throughout the former Soviet Union.
Lively credits the popularity of Russian-language translations of The Pink Swastika to the support of Pastor Alexey Ledyaev, the head of the New Generation Church, an evangelical Christian megachurch based in Riga, the capital city of Latvia. New Generation has more than 200 satellite churches spread throughout Eastern Europe, Argentina, Israel and the United States.
“One of my supporters gave him [Ledyaev] a copy of The Pink Swastika. He was very impressed by it,” Lively said in a December 2006 radio show on WTTT-AM, based in Boston. “The European press was bashing them [Ledyaev and his church] for being Nazis. He was finally thrilled that he had something to counter the media with.” Ledyaev did not respond to E-mails seeking comment.
Since then, Lively said, “I’ve been deluged by media speaking offers all over the former Soviet Union.”
In Sacramento, editorials in The Speaker urge readers to buy The Pink Swastika. Even right-wing legislators in the California Assembly are said to audibly groan when Slavic evangelicals wave a copy of the pink volume during testimony.
When you single out a group and blame them for every other major tragedy or disaster in human history — with the Inquisition, slavery, the Holocaust, and apartheid on his list, Lively seems to have left out the Black Death, unless he’s working on that right now — what do you expect people to do? How do you expect them to respond to a group you’ve told them is responsible for every awful thing in human history and that you’re telling them is a threat right now? How do you expect them to respond to members of this menace you’ve told them is out to destroy everything they hold dear and is right now panting and clawing at their door?
How have people responded to other groups so accused throughout history? Do any happen to come to mind?
Lively tells his Russian audience that the case of what happened to Satendar Singh is an example of how bad things are in the United States. He’s right, but not in the way he thinks. What happened to Satendar Singh doesn’t seem to be wrong in his eyes. Neither, apparently, is lying about what happened in the park, if the actual witnesses are to be believed. (Nothing I’ve read says anything about anyone taking their pants off, though some reports say that Singh danced with male members of his group. His friends deny reports of any men in their group kissing, however.) But what’s happening to his attackers is.
Satendar Singh was merely being “rebuked,” after all. Something any homosexual has coming.
Satender Singh (July 21, 1980 – July 1, 2007), a gay man of Fijian descent, was attacked on July 1, 2007, while socializing with friends in Natoma Lake state park, near Sacramento, CA. Singh was punched by a man from another group in the park that had made racist and homophobic comments to Singh’s group. Singh fell backwards, hit his head, and lapsed into a coma. Singh died of his injuries four days later when his family removed him from life support.
Born in Fiji, Singh moved to the United States in 2000. He settled in Sacramento, CA1) and worked at an AT&T call center.2) On July 1, 2007, Singh and six friends, three couples of Indian and Fijian descent, were at Natoma Lake state park near Sacramento, to celebrate Singh’s recent promotion at his call center job.3)
Singh was the only single member of his group, and was seen hugging and dancing with other men in his group. Another group in the park, made up of Russian immigrants was offended by Singh’s dancing with men and women in his group, and made homophobic and racist comments to Singh and his friends.4)
Bystander Wolfgang Chargin witnessed the exchanges between Singh’s group and the Russian group, and called 911 to warn that a fight was likely to occur. Chagrin witnessed the escalating conflict between the two groups as they used the picnic area, and said that the Russian group seemed especially offended by Singh’s activity. At one point, when Singh’s group went into the water, some of the men in the Russian group walked over and spat on their blankets.
Chagrin emphasized that Singh’s group was never aggressive, though they were confronted several times.5)
As the conflict grew more heated, Chagrin packed up his family and left the park, but not before notifying a worker at the gate kiosk that the shouting match was escalating into a shoving match.
Around 8:00 p.m., Singh’s group was leaving the area when some of th men from the Russian group confronted them. in the parking lot.6) A friend of Singh’s, speaking on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation, said the confrontation began when two members of their group returned from a nearby bathroom when two men from the Russian group “saying something” to them.
The men were angry that two of the men in Singh’s group allegedly kissed each other, and they demanded an apology. Singh’s friends denied anyone kissed and refused to apologize. That, they said is when the homophobic and racist taunts – such as “Sodomites” and “7-11” – began. One of the men threatened them, saying, “If there weren’t any park rangers here you’d see what I would do, we’re waiting for you.”7)
At that point, Singh responded to the insults, and the two men turned on him. According to witnesses, the two men said to Singh that they belonged to a Russian evangelical church and that he should go to a “good church” like theirs. According to several witnesses, the men sent their wives and children home and called for several more Slavic men on their cell phones.
When members of Singh’s group – which included a pregnant woman – tried to leave the men blocked them with their bodies. The woman said to the men that she didn’t want to fight them, and one of them said to her “We don’t want to fight you either, we just want your faggot friend.”8)
One of the Russian men then threw a beer into the face of a member of Singh’s group, and then “sucker punched” Singh. As Singh fell to the pavement, the two men ran away. Singh struck his head on a concrete sidewalk when he fell.9)
Arrest & Escape
On August 7, police held a press conference to announce developments in the investigation. Police said that Andrey Vusik, 29, was wanted in connection with the attack on Singh. 10) Vusik fled the United States and is believed to have returned to Russia. A warrant has been issued for Vusik’s arrest, and he is charged with involuntary manslaughter. Evidence did not show any intent to kill Singh, but police believe Vusik threw the fatal punch.11)
Police also announced that Alexander Shevchenko, 21, another suspect, had been located and arrested on August 6 and charged with committing a hate crime.
Vusik faces a maximum of eight years in prison, and Schevenko faces up to three years in prison.12)
Gay activists have claimed that Singh’s attackers have ties to a Sacramento-centered evangelical movement among Russian and Latvian immigrants calling themselves The Watchmen on the Walls. According to witnesses, one of Singh’s attackers bragged about their membership in a Russian evangelical church.13)
Vusik’s wife, Tayana, claimed that the attack on Singh was not a hate crime, and that her husband acted in self defense. Mrs. Vusik said she, her sister and the children left the park shortly after the exchange began. When Vusik came home, he told here there was a confrontation during which he thre w a “soft punch” and then ran away. Vusik said Singh was he first to mention the term “gay” as a crude sexual advance.14) Members of Singh’s group, according to Vusik’s wife, were “really drunk and they were kissing,” and that Singh started smashing bottles.
She said that Singh and his friends started cursing and swearing at her family and saying “go back to Russia.” “It would be very uncommon for our family to tolerate this kind of behavior. Vusic blamed Sacramento’s gay communiy for “exaggerating this matter,” adding “I personally think this argument had nothing to do with gay.” Vusick claimed her husband’s trip to Russia had been planned before the attack, but admitted he was afraid to return and face the charges.
A friend of Singh’s, who spoke anonymously out of fear of retaliation countered Vusik’s story, saying that that Shevchenko and Vusik taunted saying “You guys are gay. You guys are faggots.15)
The Watchmen on the Walls organization is composed of some of California’s approximately 200,000 Russian-speaking immigrants.16) In the U.S., the group’s following of Russian-speaking evangelicals has become increasingly active in gay-friendly cities like Sacramento, Seattle, WA, and Portland, OR. Vlad Kusakin, host of a Russian-language radio show in Sacramento, said that God has “made an injection” of anti-gay Slavic evangelicals into liberal West Coast cities, adding “In places where the disease is progressing, God has made a divine penicillin.”17)
In the summer of 2006 a Russian-Language newpaper in Sacramento, The Speaker, urged readers to attend an anti-gay rally, saying “Make a choice. It’s your decision. Homosexuality is knocking on your doors and asking: ‘Can I make your son gay and your daughter lesbian?’” At the rally, thousands of Russian-speaking teenagers crowded the halls of the Capitol building, wearing t-shirts that read “Sodomy is a sin” and carrying signs reading “Perversion is never safe” and “I am not learning about gay people.”18)
Scott Lively, chief envoy for the Watchmen movement, is the former director of the Oregon Citizens Alliance, which formed in the mid-90s and in 1994 nearl succded in passing a state ballot initiative declaring gay people “abnormal, wrong, unnatural and perverse,” and requiring the state to terminate all openly gay public school teachers. Lively is most widel known for co-authoring The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party, which asserts that Adolf Hitler was homosexual, that gay facists were central in forming the Nazi Party, and orchestrating the Holocaust.
Singh was taken to Mercy San Juan Medical Center and treated for internal bleeding and severe brain damage. He slipped into a coma. Shortly afterwards, on July 1, Singh died of his injuries. 19)
On July 6, over 300 people attended a vigil at the World Peace Garden, in memory of Singh. Speakers included Muslim leaders, Sikh leaders, state Senator Darrell Steinberg , Assemblymember Dave Jones, West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon, and Yolo County Supervisor Mariko Yamada.20) Singh was also a topic of discussion at the West Coast Diversity Summit on July 27, an event planned months before the attack on Singh.21)
Shevchenko returned to court on October 16.22) Shevchenko pleaded not guilty to a felony hate crime charge, and was ordered to appear in court for a preliminary hearing on November 27, to determine whether he should go to trial.23)
Law enforcement officials said that Shevchenko did not throw the punch that brought about Singh’s death, but that he contributed to the crime. Singh supporters left the trial questioning why there was only one defendant.24) Vusic remains at large in Russia, and a spokesperson for the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department said the department has contacted the FBI for assistance in finding Vusik.25)