Irizarry posted the 36-minute video to Facebook Live on June 14th, and it’s only recently begun to gain national attention. According to CBS News, Irizarry was at a picnic shelter in the Forest Preserve of Cook County, Illinois while she waited to celebrate her 24th birthday with family. In the video she posted, an angry man approaches her, yelling about her shirt, which depicts the Puerto Rican flag.
Irizarry responds that she is a citizen while the man continues to verbally attack her. He repeatedly accuses her of not being legal and gets increasingly close to her. Meanwhile, a Forest Preserves police officer stands by and does nothing. Irizarry asks multiple times for the man to be restrained, but the officer appears to ignore her.
Later, Irizarry’s brother arrives and confronts the man. Eventually, more officers arrive, and a female police officer intervenes, threatening to arrest the man for public intoxication and noncompliance.
USA Today reported that Forest Preserves issued a statement on July 9th about the incident, saying that the officer in question was being investigated and had been placed on desk duty. The statement added that the man who harassed Irizarry had been charged with assault and disorderly conduct.
Puerto Rico Mayor Ricardo Rossello even commented on the incident, tweeting that he was “appalled, shocked & disturbed by the officer’s behavior.”
As the Chicago Tribune wrote in response to the incident, Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens. The island itself is a U.S. territory, and while it doesn’t have representatives in Congress, the people who live there can legally live in the mainland U.S. and vote for the U.S. president. The fact that someone would accuse Irizarry of not being a citizen for wearing a Puerto Rico shirt is not only racist, bigoted, and offensive, but it’s downright ignorant.
Furthermore, no matter what country or territory Irizarry’s shirt depicted, and no matter whether or not she’s a citizen, she has the right to exist in public spaces without getting harassed. It’s disheartening that certain U.S. citizens feel emboldened to attack other human beings in this way, and we’re glad the incident is finally getting the national attention it deserves.