EXCLUSIVE: Young Puerto Rican Woman Harassed by Man in Viral Video Speaks Out For First Time

Jul 10, 2018
8:11 AM

Social media has been set ablaze with a Facebook live recording that is currently averaging one million views an hour, depicting a white older man in a racist tirade against a young Puerto Rican woman.

Even the Governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, sent a series of tweets about it:

Mia Irizarry, a 24-year-old college graduate who is certified in her field, endured the two-hour assault less than a month ago on what was supposed to be a day of celebration. It was June 14, Mia’s birthday, and she had planned to spend it with family and friends at the Caldwell Forest Preserve, which is in Chicago’s North Side. Mia secured a permit for a shelter at the forest preserve, near the public swimming pool. The permit was good from 7am to 7pm.

The video has garnered international attention. Mia has been approached by every type of media outlet imaginable and has refused to be interviewed by anyone until now. This is an exclusive interview with Mia Irizarry, who will share details about what transpired that Thursday afternoon in mid-June that has left her scarred. The video begins with an older white male berating her for wearing a shirt with the Puerto Rican flag on it. However, a lot happened before Mia made the decision to reach for her cell and go live on Facebook.

Mia Irizarry

Mia showed up before 2pm with her cousin, Nathan, to set up for the party. The permit allows for liquor in the forest preserve. It is legal to drink. It is illegal to be intoxicated. When Mia and Nathan arrive, there are three individuals already sitting there drinking beer. The two men and the woman were intoxicated and still drinking. Mia asked the three individuals kindly if they would not mind moving. The lady asked if Mia had a permit. When Mia confirmed, the lady and one of the men (a guy in a black t-shirt) immediately started packing to leave. The other man, Tim (as he was called in the video by his friend), did not react. He stood in defiance and asked Mia if the flag on her shirt was a Texas flag. She replied, “no” both times and told him it was the Puerto Rican flag.

Tim asked Mia why was she wearing that shirt. He had been calm up to that point, but before she could answer he became aggressive. Tim stood on top of the table and berated Mia. She decided to grab her cellphone and go live on Facebook. Unbeknownst to her, a police officer was already at the scene watching the exchange. Mia had not called the police. The police were there because, in a separate incident, the white guy with the black t-shirt had assaulted a white lady by choking her. That lady had called the 911 and that is why the police were there. Although it is in Chicago, the jurisdiction belongs to the law enforcement division of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County.

Tim got off the table and approached Mia. It is at this moment that Mia asked for assistance from the officer. The officer stayed silent and ignored her. That was the first time the officer ignored Mia’s pleas for assistance that was caught on video. The second time occurred when Tim was pursuing Mia a little too close and right before her cousin, Nathan, stepped in—what the video does not show is how close Tim was to Mia and the threat of her safety. She walked toward the officer and asked for assistance while Tim was still next to her. The officer turned and walked away. It was the second time Mia had been directly ignored and denied protection from the law enforcement officer.

The entire, non-edited version of the 36 minute video is at Mia’s Facebook profile.

After the recording ended, the cops were trying to figure out what to do with Tim and the situation. The officers stood around for a half hour. It was then that they arrested both Tim and the guy with the black shirt. Then the officers stayed in the squad cars with the suspects for another half hour. They were parked in front of the shelter the entire time. When they finally left, the ordeal had ridiculously lasted two hours.  Needless to say, Mia lost her desire to celebrate her birthday, which was ruined by a bigot’s ignorance. She was reimbursed her payment in full by the forest preserve permit office when she complained the following day.

A week after the incident, Mia filed a complaint against the officer at the main office for the forest preserve. The officer is currently under investigation and has been assigned desk duty. Her court date against Tim is scheduled for August 1. Tim has been charged with assault and disorderly conduct.

This is Mia’s first experience with racism. It is important to note that while the officer was writing his report of what transpired, Mia asked him why he ignored her.

He replied, “He’s a regular and doesn’t have a violent history.”

Mia followed with, “But anything is possible.”

And the officer answered, “You’re right.”

After watching the full 36-minute video, then listening to Mia’s account of what happened before and after, it is mind numbing to fathom the ineptitude of the officer involved. I shared my frustration and anger with Mia and her response was, “when we watch these types of videos, we always say that we would react differently on how we would handle the situation. But in that moment, after calling for help, I realized that if I reacted aggressively, I would have been criminalized.”

The sad part is that she is right. The only time the officer took action, I use the term very loosely, is when he told Nathan (her cousin) to get away from Tim. That action by the officer tells us everything about this whole exchange. He allowed a drunk white bigot to berate a young Puerto Rican woman for almost an hour, and physically approach her numerous times, but the second her cousin steps up to protect her, the officer orders him to stand down.

I asked Mia what did she want people to learn out of this situation. Mia’s response, “I want people to realize that racism is very much alive and we need to do better as a country.”

To say that this is the new norm or that this is Trump’s America has quickly become clichéd. Childish Gambino keeps invading my head chanting, “This is America.”

I asked Mia, have you changed? Her answer, “Yes. I had never expected that something like that could happen to me. It’s definitely made me more cautious. But now I get to empathize with a new group of people.”

Mia Irizarry

Sadly for all of us, it does not look like we will be done empathizing with other people anytime soon.

UPDATE, JULY 12, 2018: Hate crime charges have now been filed against Timothy Trybus.


Carlos Jiménez Flores is a storyteller, filmmaker and poet. He is a graduate of Northeastern Illinois University with a degree in Human Resource Development and Sociology. He currently resides in Chicago.