When a woman showed up to a public park in Chicago wearing a T-shirt with the Puerto Rican flag, a random man started harassing her. And a nearby cop just stood by and watched.“Why are you wearing that?” the man asked the woman. “You’re not gonna change us, you know that! No, the world is not going to change the United States of America. Period!”The June 14 incident, which the woman caught on video, went viral earlier this week. Since then, both Chicago and Puerto Rican politicians have called for the cop’s resignation. Even after the woman asked for his help, the Cook County Forest Preserve District officer did nothing, the video shows. He’s now on desk leave while the department conducts an investigation, and the man has been arrested, according the Forest Preserves of Cook County.
In the video, the woman explains that she had paid for a permit to rent the space in Caldwell Woods in Chicago to celebrate her birthday. The man then walks up to her, yelling and telling her that she shouldn’t be wearing the shirt she’s wearing, which featured a Puerto Rican flag.He repeatedly asks the woman if she’s an American citizen — even after she explains that Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory. “You shouldn’t be wearing that,” he says in the video.“Can you please get away from me?” the woman says multiple times as the man walks toward her. “Officer, I feel highly uncomfortable. Can you please grab him?” she implores the officer, who stays about 30 feet away from the interaction.“Officer, I’m renting this area, and he’s harassing me about the shirt I’m wearing,” the woman says.But the officer appears not to react, walking around several feet from the man and the woman, the video shows.Later in the video, a second officer pulls up and tells the man that the woman had legally rented the space. The officer also tells him that he’s not welcome in the park when he’s drunk.You can watch the full, 36-minute video of the altercation here:
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello took to Twitter on Monday to call for the officer to be fired.
After the video went viral and Rosello’s statement came out, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle offered her apology to the woman on Tuesday and called Rossello to offer her apology to him as well.
U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, the Democrat from Illinois who won’t seek re-election so he can go to Puerto Rico to help with the recovery efforts, is also calling for a federal investigation into the incident.“I understand this incident on a gut level because almost exactly the same thing happened to me when I was a freshman in Congress,” Gutierrez said in a statement. “I was denied entry into the Capitol complex by U.S. Capitol Police despite being a Congressman with identification, because my daughter was carrying a Puerto Rican flag and the officer doubted that I could possibly be a member of Congress.”“Our values are clear: All people are welcome in the Forest Preserves of Cook County, and no one should feel unsafe while visiting our preserves,” Eileen Figel, the head of the preserves, said in a statement to VICE News.Cover image: Screengrab from video