Mia Irizarry was just trying to celebrate her 24th birthday at the park on June 14. Clad in a sleeveless Puerto Rico flag tee and shorts, she was ready for a day of fun at the Forest Preserves of Cook County in Illinois. But soon a gringo began to harass her because of her shirt, so Mia began to film the confrontation.
“This is what I’m wearing guys,” she says revealing her outfit as a man yells at her in the background. As she asks him to get out of her personal space, he continues to berate her. When she tries to explain that Puerto Rico is a commonwealth, and therefore a part of the United States, he interjects: “We don’t own Puerto Rico. We protect Puerto Rico.” (There are thousands of people in Puerto Rico without power that would beg to differ.) “…My point is, why are you wearing that?” he says, pointing at her.
As he gets closer to her, he tells her that “this is America.” Mia once again asks him to leave, explaining she has rented the area for her party. “You’re not gonna change us, you know that?” he says, insinuating that she is an interloper. “The world is not gonna change the United States of America. You should not be wearing that in the United States of America. Are you a citizen?”
Though the incident is unacceptable and upsetting, it’s not entirely surprising that this unnamed man questioned her citizenship. A 2017 Morning Consult poll of 2,200 US adults found that 46 percent didn’t know that people born in Puerto Rico are citizens. In the video, Mia tries to educate him on this fact, but he ignores her and instead attempts to intimidate her by getting in her space.
The most disconcerting part of the video is that while Mia fears for her safety, a police officer stands in the background. She calls for his help – even alerting him that she feels “highly uncomfortable” – but he does nothing. Eventually, more officers arrive and arrest the man, who was charged with assault and disorderly conduct. As Mia’s video went viral, Forest Preserves informed the public that the officer who failed to protect Mia is under investigation and currently on desk duty.
Check out Mia’s video below: