SAN JUAN — In what is being called one of the most extraordinary protests in the history of Puerto Rico, over 100,000 people marched in Viejo San Juan on Wednesday to call for Governor Ricardo Rosselló’s resignation. The protests marked the fifth consecutive day of people gathering in front of La Fortaleza in hopes that Rosselló would leave office.
But on Thursday morning, Rosselló’s Deputy Chief of Staff told WKAQ that the Governor will not give up office. Then, around noon, Rosselló’s office released a statement saying that he believes time will restore the Puerto Rican people’s confidence in him.
“In the past few days I have asked for forgiveness, face to face, from the Puerto Rican people, and that request remains alive. I have the commitment, stronger than ever, to carry out the public policy for which we have worked so hard in all areas of government,” he wrote.
Comparto mis expresiones sobre las manifestaciones de ayer. pic.twitter.com/sly4MQrySC
— Ricardo Rosselló (@ricardorossello) July 18, 2019
Rosselló’s statement did not sit well with citizens, many criticizing his tone-deaf and aloof remarks.
One user interpreted Rosselló’s compromise as “The more they push me, the more stubborn I get.”
Rosselló: "Tengo el compromiso más fuerte que nunca."
Traducción: "Mientras más me presionen, más terco me pongo." https://t.co/9WTbM0pNcN
— Ángel Carrión #RickyRenuncia (@angel15amc) July 18, 2019
Another said that Rosselló is turning into that ex-boyfriend that doesn’t understand the relationship is over.
— C✨ (@cetm22) July 18, 2019
Soon after Rosselló released his statement, resident commissioner and vice-president of the Statehood party (PNP, in Spanish), Jennifer González, said in a tweet that the PNP needs to hold an emergency meeting to deal with everything that’s happened in the last few days.
Tiene que haber una reunión urgente del directorio del @pnp_pr para discutir todo lo que está ocurriendo.
— Jenniffer González (@Jenniffer2012) July 18, 2019
The demonstration from Wednesday was peaceful for a few hours, with hundreds upon thousands of people flooding the narrow streets of Old San Juan.
Same location but now with pictures pic.twitter.com/KYElcY12Cp
— Natalia (@nataliarodmed) July 18, 2019
But like on Monday, things got heated later in the night. Near the police barricade on Calle Fortaleza, thousands were gathered, calling for Rosselló’s resignation through chants, songs, and music, when a few water bottles were thrown at police, prompting the police to sound warning alarms. Demonstrators at the front of the line quickly raised their arms begging the police not to release gas; they also took action to admonish those who were throwing water bottles to stop.
This happened a couple of more times until the police declared that the demonstration was over, and ordered everyone to disperse. Protestors refused, and eventually, someone allegedly threw Molotov cocktails and fireworks at the police, prompting them to break the barricade and throw tear gas at demonstrators.
In his statement, Rosselló praised those who protested peacefully, but said that others “chose the wrong and violent methods, including the use of weapons, Molotov cocktails, and other explosives, causing injuries and impacting Puerto Rican police officers.”
Although Rosselló’s and Police Commissioner Henry Escalera’s statements say it was the protesters who threw the pyrotechnics, multiple videos from social media and local TV station NotiCentro show that the fireworks seemed to have been set off behind the police line, though these claims are unconfirmed.
IT WAS THEM!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/v9j1IzZvwE
— Toñito Jobs (@manuel_ant0nio) July 18, 2019
Before Rosselló made his statements, President Donald Trump took to Twitter to speak about the issue for the first time, saying that the governor is under siege, but also took time to insult San Juan Mayor, Carmen Yulín Cruz.
A lot of bad things are happening in Puerto Rico. The Governor is under siege, the Mayor of San Juan is a despicable and incompetent person who I wouldn’t trust under any circumstance, and the United States Congress foolishly gave 92 Billion Dollars for hurricane relief, much….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 18, 2019
Yulín Cruz told Latino Rebels on Wednesday night that when you live in a colony, the way it’s reflected in the U.S. makes a difference in the aid you are going to receive.
“It isn’t about what they think in the United States, it’s about how that’s going to endanger our ability to stand up and move on,” she said after expressing that Rosselló has to go.
Wednesday’s march was summoned by community organizers and music legends René “Residente” Pérez and Benito “Bad Bunny” Martínez, respectively. They were also joined by Puerto Rican superstar Ricky Martin, singer Tommy Torres and his wife, TV personality Karla Monroig, and Academy Award-winning actor Benicio del Toro, among other local artists.
More marches and protests are being coordinated and announced through social media. It seems the more stubborn Rosselló gets, the more motivated the people are to push him out.
Natalia Rodríguez Medina is the 2019 summer correspondent for Latino Rebels. She is a member the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY’s Class of 2019. Natalia tweets from @nataliarodmed.