Students, Foggy Bottom residents hold vigil for slain homeless man

GW students and Foggy Bottom residents gathered Wednesday evening to commemorate the life of a homeless man found murdered last month on a nearby street corner.

Around 30 people met outside of Thurston Hall and marched silently toward Western Presbyterian Church on Virginia Avenue, near where Yoshio Nakada, 61, was discovered brutally murdered on Christmas Eve morning. Nakada was found with severe chop wounds to the head and a fractured skull, the D.C. Medical Examiner’s office said.

Some Foggy Bottom community members had already participated in an earlier vigil remembering Nakada two weeks ago, but GW junior Amanda Formica and sophomore Ana Johnson coordinated a second vigil to raise more awareness about Nakada’s murder.

“We are here to remember and in his honor bring awareness to these hate crimes,” Johnson said.

Nakada, known for his penchant for singing and performing – but not necessarily in an understandable voice – had often been seen in Ivory Tower. He also made appearances in other Foggy Bottom buildings, one resident said.

“I knew him, friends of mine live in the building where he was sometimes,” said Elizabeth Elliot, a 29-year resident of the area. “I’m marching in support of his life and to prevent these crimes from happening in the future, as homeless individuals are very vulnerable.”

Many vigil attendees – including ones at the Wednesday night event and the earlier ceremony – stressed that crimes and discrimination against the homeless are all too common.

“Everyone, regardless of where or how you live, should have the same civil rights,” said Tony Taylor, a senior. Taylor also said the murder received little attention from press and the police, suggesting that if Nakada had not been homeless, his murder would have been acknowledged in headlines locally and nationally.

The event was an opportunity for Foggy Bottom community members and GW students to come together – something one GW student said was a rarity.

“This is the first event I’ve participated in at GW where we come together with the Foggy Bottom community on a night where people would rather not be marching in the freezing weather,” said Amanda Leslie, a sophomore. “Faculty, residents and students are all mourning this loss together.”

Formica said she hoped Wednesday’s event might be the beginning of a bigger conversation in Foggy Bottom about the safety of the area. David Pirtle, a homeless man who attended the vigil, confirmed that the homeless in particular face a harsher and more unsafe environment.

“Nakada is dead now, he’s in a better place than when he was here, and now we are left,” Pirtle said. “We face the elements everyday, we face the attacks, and we face the discrimination.”

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