Puerto Rico gov says there are other ways to be heard
Amid massive protest for his ouster; feds warn against violence
SAN JUAN — In a statement issued after thousands of people attempted to get as close as possible to his office and residence to condemn messages he shared with his inner circle on a messaging app, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló mentioned his acknowledgment of the demonstration but focused on those who reacted to police force protocol.
“The demonstrations that have arisen tonight are an expression that I respect and I have very much in mind. Unfortunately, despite the responsible call for a peaceful demonstration by many of the participants, many others chose to damage property and assault officials who sought to preserve public order in defense of the security and rights of all,” Rosselló wrote Monday evening.
“My gratitude goes to all those who made their claims heard, as well as to the officers of the Puerto Rico Police Bureau, who once again were at the forefront of this sad situation. I direct my call to those who have shown their anger in a violent way so that they understand that there are many other ways to be heard and that as governor I am committed to doing,” he added.
After tear gas canisters began to fly back and forth between protesters and officers—who say these were first lodged at them, while Mariana Nogales of Brigada Solidaria legal services told Telemundo TV that she and three other monitors witnessed otherwise—friction intensified to the point that law enforcement expanded its security perimeter as waves of activists tried to breach the break wall to no avail.
The security forces used pepper spray and tear gas to disperse the crowd as some would fight back with whatever was around them, even setting trash bins on fire. Five people reportedly were arrested. The number of civilian injuries was unclear, while the police said 21 officers were injured.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Homeland Security Investigations, and the Drug Enforcement Administration are working with the island’s law enforcement to investigate “the violent acts” that transpired in Old San Juan, the Justice Department said in a release.
“We emphasize that peaceful demonstrations are an exercise of the fundamental rights of citizens, but violent acts and destruction of property have no part of a peaceful demonstration, and will not to be tolerated. We are disheartened by the violence that some groups have taken and we will investigate and prosecute anyone who has violated federal law, to the fullest extent of the law,” said Rosa Emilia Rodríguez-Vélez, U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico. “We remain vigilant in monitoring the situation and will act immediately, as we have done in other situations when peaceful demonstrations have turned violent.”
“The FBI recognizes the public’s first amendment right to protest in a peaceful manner. Nonetheless, the FBI will actively investigate any acts of violence that fall under our jurisdiction and constitute federal crimes in coordination with our law enforcement partners and the US Attorney’s office,” added Douglas A. Leff, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI.