State of Seige at NYC Puerto Rico Day Parade

Les Schaffer schaffer at
Thu Jun 14 08:11:38 MDT 2001

[from ["Jay Moore" <pieinsky at>]]

Vieques Support Campaign
E-mail viequessc at

    -Please Forward-



The June 10, 2001 National Puerto Rican Day Parade which marched up New York
City's 5th Avenue will surely be remembered by many as having the semblance
of a military occupation. According to official sources, 2500 more cops were
assigned duty to this year's parade, the largest ever police presence at
this annual event.

Despite denials by Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and the police that they were
placing blame on this traditional celebration for last year's Central Park
sexual abuse of women, the heavy police presence, along with unnecessary new
restrictions on marching participants and spectators, prove the opposite to
be the case. The hypocritical overtures of Giuliani and police officials can
not disguise the fact that the Puerto Rican masses were the target of a
military exercise.

The requirement of a color-coded wristband that was necessary for admission
to the designated area of contingents, is quite similar to prison
identification wristbands - quite indicative of the thinking of government
officials eager to increase the authority of the police state. The control
of pedestrian movement was accompanied by the bullying arrogance and
intimidation of the police, especially directed at many of the Puerto Rican
masses and their allies wishing to enter the area where the pro-Vieques,
anti-Navy Contingent was gathering.

It was at the checkpoints leading to the Vieques Contingent on 45th Street
where the police were quite hostile for obvious reasons. The Vieques
Contingent had delegations from various struggles and political left. Among
the participants in this contingent were representatives of the Palestine
Right To Return Coalition - AL-AWDA who came with a banner that read, "U.S.

A delegation from the Almighty Latin King & Queen Nation was also present,
which the police attempted to provoke numerous times in order to disrupt the
pro-Vieques, anti-Navy contingent.

Throughout the past year Giuliani and the police have continued to associate
the Puerto Rican Day Parade of June 11, 2000 with the violence in Central
Park on that day, by calling for a greater police presence at this year's
parade. With the help of the media, these officials have insidiously
demonized the parade and have continued to persecute the Puerto Rican people
with racist stigma despite the fact that the violent incident in Central
Park occurred three hours after the parade had ended.

Although police claimed to be carrying out the wishes of the Puerto Rican
Day Parade Coordinating Committee, the methods used to control this parade
were precisely what Giuliani and top police officials had been calling for
all along.

Members of the Puerto Rican Day Parade Coordinating Committee were playing
"good cop, bad cop" with the NYPD in order to hide their lack of dignity and
courage to challenge the orders given by City Hall and implemented by NYPD.
Instead, these Committee members representing the National Puerto Rican Day
Parade, Inc. chose to prioritize protecting profits by catering to the
sponsoring giant corporations at the expense of the political rights of the
Puerto Rican community.

In the early morning hours the police department and representatives of the
Parade Coordinating Committee attempted to remove people already inside the
gathering area that did not have their wristbands issued to them yet.
Vieques Contingent organizers held their ground and refused to allow the
police and Parade Committee representatives to have their way. In the end
they proved willing to compromise the interest of the Puerto Rican masses by
helping racist cops to discourage as many people as possible from uniting in
the pro-Vieques, anti-Navy contingent.

Despite the efforts of Giuliani, the police and Parade officials to suppress
the issue of Vieques, including placing the Vieques Contingent towards the
end of the parade, the message calling for the removal of the U.S. Navy
could not be prevented from being a major theme at this event. There were
signs proudly displayed by many spectators that expressed disapproval for
the U.S. Navy bombing and occupation of Vieques.

If there is any doubt how the memory of the Central Park incident was used
by racist officials to demonize the Puerto Rican community, just ask why the
East Harlem Festival on Saturday, June 9, (three miles away from the Central
Park incident location) was turned into a virtual military base by the NYPD?

The day before the big 5th Avenue parade, Puerto Ricans were subjected to
harassment and disrespect in their own community. It is significant that at
this festival, for the first time ever, the NYPD had cops sitting on
watchtowers overlooking everyone partaking in the event. Cops searched
residents as well as the property of venders at random to enforce a ban on
beer while police helicopters hovered over the area, proving that a state of
siege was in effect.

At both events, the police were obviously not interested in the sentiments
of the public nor the benefits of well-coordinated festivals but rather, to
exert their authority and be prepared to repress the rebelliousness of the
Puerto Rican masses, if necessary.

The increased persecution of the Puerto Rican community is not coincidental.
Police repression in the Puerto Rican community is no different in nature to
the brutality inflicted on Puerto Ricans in Vieques by U.S. Marshals and
military police.

And because the Puerto Rican community is going through a process of rapid
politicization due to their affinities to the struggle for Vieques, it makes
law enforcement officials feel increasingly leery of the rebellious
potential the Puerto Rican community in the U.S. has proven to have. It
should not surprise us that in law enforcement circles, military and other
racist entities, that there is a backlash currently directed at Puerto

After a year of insidiously blaming the Puerto Rican community for the
Central Park incident, projecting it with racist depiction as the call for
increased police presence continued to be made, Giuliani attempted to build
a political justification for diminishing further the civil liberties of the
Puerto Rican and other communities of color. It should not surprise us that
the police were ready in riot gear on the streets of the Bronx before they
brutally beat Puerto Rican residents.

In this latest attack by police, residents were celebrating on the streets
after returning from the 5th Avenue event, which is not an unusual
occurrence. It seems that to the racist oppressors, whenever Puerto Ricans
congregate, automatically they become "unruly" and need to be beaten and
arrested in order to preserve "control."

The police immediately began exerting their brutal force. Police used pepper
spray on a young man in the crowd before beating him. His sister responded
by coming to his aid, the police then grabbed and beat her. The crowd
immediately reacted by coming to her defense - an absolute right of the
people. By the time the incident ended, forty-two people were arrested and
many suffered injuries inflicted by cops.

Boricua weekend is a time of pride that is celebrated by the Puerto Rican
community every year. The heavy show of police in this year's celebrations,
and the arrogance that they demonstrated at these events, demands all of us
to take the example of the people in Vieques and engage in struggle to
change our reality. The onslaught of police repression can be repelled.
Guiliani, the police and the U.S. Navy are not invincible - with the unity
of a peoples' movement, racists can be stopped as well as getting the U.S.
Navy out of Vieques.

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