puerto rico, shirt, harassment, video

Man Who Harassed Woman for Wearing a Puerto Rico Shirt Has Been Charged With Felony Hate Crimes

And the officer who sat by and did nothing has resigned.
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Earlier this week, a video went viral that showed a young woman named Mia Irizarry being harassed by a man over the Puerto Rico flag shirt she was wearing while setting up for a birthday party in a public park. The video was incredibly upsetting. The man was belligerent, getting far too close to Irizarry’s body, trying to intimidate her while yelling ignorant comments about this being America, so she wouldn’t be wearing a Puerto Rico shirt, clearly unaware that Puerto Rico is part of the United States. She informs him of this fact, and he proceeds to aggressively whitesplain to her why she is wrong. (She isn’t.) “We don’t own Puerto Rico,” he told her. “We protect Puerto Rico.”

“You should not be wearing that in the United States of America,” he yelled at her. “Are you a citizen?”

She replied, “Yes I am.”

“Then you should not be wearing that. You should be wearing United States of America flag,” he said.

Something tells me this Chicago-area man wouldn’t be upset if someone showed up to that park in a shirt with the flag New York or Alaska, or even, say, Ireland. But this sort of bigot simply cannot stand people of color expressing pride in any place that isn’t also theirs.

What also makes the video upsetting is the fact that there is a police officer standing just a short way away, refusing to intervene, despite the woman’s pleas for him to do so.

Now the man, identified as 62-year-old Timothy Trybus, has been arrested on two hate crime charges. Originally, he was charged with only misdemeanor disorderly conduct and misdemeanor assault, but both were upgraded to hate crimes, making them felonies.

After the incident in the park (which took place on June 14th), the officer, Patrick Connor, reportedly took a pre-scheduled vacation for a few weeks, and when he returned, was placed on desk duty. This Wednesday, after the video of him doing–in Irizarry’s words–”absolutely zero” to help her went viral, Connor resigned.

Iziarry’s congressman, Rep. Louis V. Gutierrez delivered an impassioned speech yesterday about Irizarry’s experience and called for an investigation into the incident. “For me, this is very personal,” he says, “because something similar happened to me. Something similar has happened to most Puerto Ricans and most Latinos and most people of color and most people who are somehow ‘different’ in this country, at one point of another in their lives.”

He condemned the officer as well as Donald Trump for using fearmongering to fuel the flames of bigotry and xenophobia. “This is certainly not the first time,” Gutierrez says, “but right now we are in a moment of history when Americans are being told to fear other Americans. And one of the reasons I think the video went viral is because it is emblematic of our times.”

There’s a lot to be said about the evils of social media, but as Gutierrez describes, these sorts of incidents are far too prevalent. This one happened a month ago, but if Irizarry hadn’t filmed the encounter, and if it hadn’t attracted such widespread attention (NowThis’ video of the harassment has garnered 38 million views in just a few days, with another 1.6 million views on Irizarry’s own video which she broadcast live on Facebook at the time), it’s likely that Trybus wouldn’t have been arrested and Connor would still be working. It’s distressing that it takes viral internet status to make things move in the direction of justice, but at least it means there is a way to bring attention to these issues.

“The video makes clear that we all have to step up to defend the United States from this tide of misogyny, homophobia, and xenophobia, and stand up for what America is really all about,” Gutierrez says in his speech. “Please let’s just do it all together. If you see hate, stand up and speak.”

(via CBS News, image: screencap, Now This)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.