Next Tuesday, President Obama will visit Puerto Rico.
We hope that during his time there, he'll address the ongoing First Amendment and human rights violations that the ACLU has been investigating and documenting since 2004. Over the last two years, since Gov. Luis Fortuño took office, police brutality and suppression of free speech and peaceful assembly have escalated to an alarming level.
On numerous occasions, police have beaten and molested students protesting at the University of Puerto Rico. Union leaders and other peaceful protesters outside the Capitol Building and other public spaces have been pepper sprayed, beaten and shot at with rubber bullets by riot squad officers. Journalists attempting to cover these events have been assaulted by police. This video shows just some of the most recent violence:
For years we have been asking the Justice Department to investigate police brutality in Puerto Rico, and in 2008 the Justice Department initiated an investigation. In March, we sent a letter to the Justice Department asking it to investigate recent events. From March through May of this year, the ACLU conducted fact-finding research in Puerto Rico, and we sent a delegation on a fact-finding mission to Puerto Rico in to investigate police and government abuses and interview its victims.
On Wednesday, ACLU executive director Anthony D. Romero, ACLU human rights researcher Jennifer Turner, Angelo Falcón of the National Institute for Latino Policy and Juan Cartagena of LatinoJustice Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund met with members of the House and Senate and representatives from Departments of Justice and Education to discuss the issue. And today, we sent a letter to President Obama urging him to address these issues during his trip to Puerto Rico Tuesday. The letter states:
We applaud your Administration's vigorous support for the free speech and assembly rights of civil society in countries such as Egypt and Tunisia. However, as we turn our eyes toward abuses in other countries, we cannot turn a blind eye toward our own.
We will also raise these concerns Tuesday in full-page ads in Puerto Rico's largest Spanish-language newspaper El Nuevo Dia and its only English-language newspaper The Daily Sun. A similar ad will also run Sunday through Tuesday in New York's El Diario La Prensa, one of the nation's largest Spanish-language newspapers.
We'll have a comprehensive report of our findings from the ACLU's research in September 2011.