Several hundred protesters raised their voices yesterday across the gates of the Federal Court in Hato Rey to demand equal treatment by the U.S. Congress for U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico and for the island to become the 51st U.S. state.
“We have been discriminated against as U.S. citizens under the Territorial Clause for 122 years, and we believe that we have exercised our self-determination twice, through referendums, and we chose statehood,” said Elvin Méndez, spokesman for Movimiento Revolución Estadista (Statehood Revolution Movement), the organization that called for the demonstration.
Méndez, 27, said it was an ideological demonstration, with no partisan lines, aiming at reaching a conclusion on Puerto Rico’s political status.
“We recognize that there are other sectors with other ideologies and it is time we raised our voice and made ourselves heard,” Méndez told El Nuevo Día.
Demonstrators marched from the Sagrado Corazón Urban Train station, in Santurce, to the main entrance of the Federal Court, under the slogan “Pro-statehood Revolution.”
In the last stretch of this march, on José Oliver Avenue, a narrator from a “tumbacoco,” (a van with speakers) was relating the event while claiming that the crowd extended far beyond “a mile,” however, it was 400 meters, that is a quarter of a mile.
“There are thousands, not hundreds but thousands,” insisted the man, even though the number of demonstrators was small, as this newspaper saw. The people went there following a call made on social media, mainly by young people, said Méndez.
The call represents another example of the fundamental role that young people want to play in the Puerto Rican political map, as this summer mass demonstrations have shown.
Young people from Aguadilla, Morovis, Adjuntas, and Villalba, among other municipalities, founded this movement a month ago. Upon arriving at the Court building, they announced that they want to file a petition in Congress to declare Puerto Rico –through a resolution – an incorporated territory of the United States.
Although statehood was the main demand, demonstrators of all ages also expressed several concerns and complaints.
Ambar Garcés, 23, called for the unity of Puerto Ricans and expressed concerns about the economic situation on the island.
“There are many people living in poverty,” she said.
Meanwhile, Teresita Meléndez expressed her indignation at a state government whose officials “do not understand the needs of Puerto Rican citizens.”
“We are tired of PNPs and Popular politicians, we don’t want more politicians, we want people who work for Puerto Rico,” said this 60-year-old woman from Barranquilla.
There were also critics of President Donald Trump and indignation at his constant attacks on Puerto Rico, as well as the incorrect information he has shared on Twitter about how much federal aid the island received in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and María.
“We demand respect,” said Egbert Quiñones, 56, of Ponce.
Several politicians such as Senator Henry Neumann; Representatives José “Quiquito” Meléndez, Jorge Navarro and María Milagros Charbonier; and former PNP electoral commissioner Norma Burgos participated in the demonstration.