A woman was harassed by a man in an Illinois park for wearing a shirt displaying the Puerto Rican flag. Now, an investigation has been opened into the incident, where the man—who was visibly drunk—verbally berated the woman and called her shirt un-American.
The woman, Mia Irizarry, was celebrating her 24th birthday at the Forest Preserves of Cook County on June 14 when the man accosted her and asked her about her shirt. She filmed the confrontation on her phone and posted it to Facebook.
The Forest Preserves of Cook County tweeted on Monday that it was cognizant of the video Irizarry put on Facebook.
“After the incident, we immediately launched an investigation pursuant to our personnel policies into the response of our officer,” it said. “The investigation is ongoing and the officer involved has been assigned to desk duty pending the outcome. The intoxicated individual involved in the incident was arrested and charged with assault and disorderly conduct.”
In the video, the man can be seen walking up to Irizarry, saying, “You should not be wearing that in the United States of America,” and asking her, “Are you a citizen? Are you a United States citizen?”
Irizarry responded by saying that Puerto Rico is part of the U.S., and then asked an officer for help. “I am renting this area and he's harassing me about the shirt that I'm wearing,” she said. Later, she again pleaded with the officer, “Officer, I feel entirely uncomfortable, can you remove...please officer.”
However, the officer walked away from her, then later spoke to the man, who told the officer to “shut the fuck up.”
The man continued to criticize her, even as more cops arrived, saying, “You're not American, if you were American you wouldn't wear that. You know that right?”
A woman officer then stepped in, telling the intoxicated man that Irizarry has a permit and cautioning him that he could be arrested “for not being compliant.”
“You don't come here harassing people,” the officer added. “People have just as much right to be here as you and when you're drunk, you don't belong here.”
Irizarry then explained to the officer that the situation began when she requested that the group move since she had a permit. While the group complied, the drunk man approached her.
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello shared his viewpoint on the video via Twitter on Monday: “Today a video surfaced of an undignified event in which a Puerto Rican woman was brutally harassed by a bigot while an officer did not interfere. I am appalled, shocked & disturbed by the officer's behavior,” he said.
While Puerto Rico isn’t a U.S. state, it’s a commonwealth and has its own constitution. From 1917, Puerto Rican residents have been U.S. citizens and have the ability to vote in U.S. presidential primaries, though not in presidential elections.