NEW YORK — Recent tactics of the FBI, which include military-style assaults and home raids on people in Puerto Rico who favor independence — as well as the pepper spraying of journalists — have provoked public outrage across the island and in the United States. Such outrage was evident at a recent forum in East Harlem.
Four U.S. congresspeople, including New York’s Charles Rangel, José E. Serrano and Nydia Velázquez and Chicago’s Luis Gutiérrez, have joined with forces in Puerto Rico to demand a congressional investigation and an independent inquiry into the FBI’s activities on the island nation.
Reps. Rangel and Serrano were among those on the panel, along with state Sen. José M. Serrano.
Under the guise of looking for terrorists, FBI agents have reportedly been stepping up harassment of Puerto Rican independence activists, particularly since the FBI’s Sept. 23 killing of pro-independence leader Filiberto Ojeda Ríos. On Feb. 10, FBI agents raided several homes and a business, again on the pretext of “antiterrorism,” and then used pepper spray on a peaceful protesters and reporters.
Many fear that the government is using the “war on terror” and the Patriot Act as tools to arrest nonviolent advocates of Puerto Rican independence.
The East Harlem forum, held at the Julia de Burgos Cultural Center, was called to support the demands for an investigation. Many community residents took part.
City Councilperson Melissa Mark Viverito (D-Bronx), who hosted the event, asked, “On what grounds [did] the FBI determine to bring the war on terrorism to the homes and places of work of Puerto Ricans who favor the island’s independence?”
“We demand answers that can only come through independent hearings and an investigation,” she said.
Mark Viverito was elected in 2005 as the first Puerto Rican woman to represent NYC’s 8th District, which includes the Bronx/Manhattan neighborhoods of El Barrio-East Harlem, Manhattan Valley and Mott Haven.
Several demonstrations against the FBI raids have taken place in Puerto Rico since the Feb. 10 events. On Feb. 26, at least 1,000 marchers rallied in San Juan, the nation’s capital, chanting “Respect Puerto Rico!” and “FBI get out!”
En español Siguen protestas contra abusos FBI