Washington, D.C.: Thousands Rally for Puerto Rico

November 20, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


November 19—Thousands of people, overwhelmingly of Puerto Rican descent, marched from the U.S. Capitol Building to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. in a Unity March for Puerto Rico. This was the first major outpouring against the contempt and neglect of the U.S. government towards the people of Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria tore through the Caribbean in September.

March organizers described their mission as to “stand in solidarityONE people—ONE voice—against unjust laws that have been systematically oppressive and crippling to the people of Puerto Rico and the socio-economic growth and sustainability of the island.” The organizer’s website also said that the “Unity March for Puerto Rico is asking for legislative reforms in support of: permanently exempting Puerto Rico from the Jones Act; the cancellation of Puerto Rico’s debt; and rebuilding Puerto Rico.”

People came in contingents from cities up and down the East Coast and throughout the Midwest. Many college-aged youth marched, and entire families from grandparents to little kids were there. Prominent people such as Lin-Manuel Miranda, Jose Andrés, and Rita Moreno spoke. A march organizer announced from the stage that Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan who has been singled out for racist attacks by Donald Trump, had been scheduled to attend and to speak to the rally, but that her plane had been unable to leave the airport because of electrical malfunction. Many people referred to her as their voice on the island.

A sentiment expressed repeatedly by those at the march was that the people of Puerto Rico have been completely disrespected by the government, specifically the “Casa Blanca” (White House). And there was a tremendous amount of Puerto Rican pride in response to that. A theme from several speakers and many in the crowd was that this crisis has been going on for two months and that people recognize they are being abandoned and treated differently than people on the U.S. mainland hit by major hurricanes this year.

Over and over people denounced the Jones Act, a law from 1920 that requires all shipping between other U.S. ports and Puerto Rico to be on ships built in the U.S., owned and operated by U.S. citizens, and flying the U.S. flag, which raises the cost of almost everything on the island. Trump put a waiver on the Jones Act for ten days after Maria hit, and then reinstated it, inflicting further, ongoing punishment on Puerto Rico and making the challenge of rebuilding the island much more difficult.

A crew distributed Revolution newspaper and leaflets of the demands posted on Revcom.us. Hundreds of Refuse Fascism stickers and leaflets, in Spanish and English, were also taken up by many people, and some put the stickers on immediately. A Revolution distributor described the mood of the crowd as “celebratory and angry at same time.” Just about everyone agreed strongly that, as the Revolution distributor said, “There is a white supremacist in the White House, and we need to fight this regime.”

Many of the speakers focused on the amount of money that has been raised for Puerto Rico and looking to upcoming elections (the closest scheduled election still a year away) to address the situation. Kirsten Gillibrand, a senator from New York, had the gall to say that the forced mass exodus of people from Puerto Rico into Florida could be a boon for the Democrats in upcoming elections.

Rita Moreno delivered a much more powerful and truthful message: “At this moment, so many Puertorriqueños are living in the dark, literally and symbolically. Children are playing in filthy water, they’re unable to play in school. Our people are hungry, thirsty, sick, and as a panacea, they had rolls of paper towels thrown at them (boos from the crowd). That is insulting. That is obscene. That is an unloving, unfeeling human being. You know what I’m talking about? I’m talking about 3.5 million human beings barely existing in the most horrible hardships being told to get their act together. That is obscene. Where is the USA, where is Congress, with its ‘great soul and generous heart’? It’s not there. It’s not there, (sarcastically) Mr. President. It’s right here (pointing to the cheering crowd). P’alante, p’arriba.”


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