The governor of Puerto Rico has demanded a police officer be fired for passively looking on while a man harassed a woman in the Chicago area for wearing a shirt displaying the Puerto Rican flag last month.
The woman, Mia Irizarry, took a video of the harassment, in which an intoxicated man repeatedly came up close to her, demanded to know if she was an American citizen, and told her she should not be wearing the shirt. Irizarry repeatedly asked an onlooking officer for help, but he ignored her. The man has been charged with assault and disorderly conduct, authorities said in a news conference Tuesday.
In the video, which was posted to Facebook, Irizarry can be heard repeatedly asking the man to leave her alone, explaining that she has a permit to rent the picnic area they were both in. Irizarry had rented the picnic area for her birthday.
As the man, later identified as 62-year-old Timothy G. Trybus, continued to harass her, Irizarry explained that Puerto Rico is part of the United States. At one point, Trybus, ignoring her plea to “step away,” told her, “you’re not going to change us. … The world is not going to change the United States of America.”
“I’m just trying to come here for a birthday party,” she responded.
Even as she walked away, he pursued her. When she told him she was an American citizen, he told her, “If you’re an American citizen, you should not be wearing that shirt.”
Irizarry continued to appeal to the police officer, later identified as Patrick Connor, a 10-year member of the police force, according to the Washington Post. He finally stepped in when a man, later identified as Irizarry’s brother, defended her, telling Trybus to “back up.” Other officers arrived, and police arrested Trybus. Connor told Irizarry that “he’s just a big mouth” and that Trybus was not going to physically assault her.
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló demanded on Twitter on Monday that the officer be fired, saying, “I am appalled, shocked & disturbed by the officer’s behavior.” On CNN on Tuesday, Rosselló reminded the audience, “We’ve been fighting wars with other fellow Americans. We are proud U.S. citizens. People need to understand that.”
Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez on Twitter expressed outrage at the incident “right in our backyard” and said, “Whether they are racists at a park, Cook County employees who do nothing, or Presidents who toss paper towels at people and denigrate Latinos w/ every Tweet, this is not the America we want to become & standing up to hate & bigotry must start at home.”
The paper towels are in reference to the behavior of President Trump, who was criticized by some for his behavior while visiting Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Many have said that his inaction when it came to Puerto Rico’s recovery amounted to incompetence or racism.
On Tuesday, the police department said it had placed Connor on desk duty and would be conducting an internal investigation. “The officer should have stepped in and he should have done something,” the police chief said. According to the Post, Irizarry was refunded the fee for renting the picnic area.