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Puerto Rican Day Parade Calls Attention to Plight of Hurricane Victims and Demands End to Deadly Austerity

"This is a very important parade and a very meaningful parade given the tragedy and the devastation of the homeland."

People participate in the annual Puerto Rican Day Parade marching up 5th Ave. on June 11, 2017 in New York City. (Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images)

Hundreds of thousands gathered and marched in the streets of New York City on Sunday for the 61st annual Puerto Rican Day Parade, an event that took on even greater significance in the aftermath of last year's unprecedented hurricane season that left much of Puerto Rico utterly devastated.

"We're here to call an end to policies of austerity that are literally killing people."
—Natasha Lycia Bannan, LatinoJustice PRLDEF

Around eight months have passed since Hurricane Maria first slammed into Puerto Rico, and five percent of the island remains without power while studies continue to demonstrate that the actual death toll from the Category 4 storm is many, many times higher than the official count put forth by U.S. officials.

It was with these facts at the forefront that thousands of union workers, environmentalists, civil rights advocates, and ordinary Americans took to Fifth Avenue Sunday afternoon for the annual event.

"This is a very important parade and a very meaningful parade given the tragedy and the devastation of the homeland," Louis Maldonado, National Puerto Rican Day Parade (NPRDP) Board Chair, said ahead of the march.

"We're here calling for a public and citizen's audit of the debt and an accounting for the thousands of Puerto Ricans who died from government neglect," Natasha Lycia Bannan, associate counsel with the civil rights group LatinoJustice PRLDEF, wrote on Twitter. "We're here to call an end to policies of austerity that are literally killing people."

In addition to denouncing the "disaster capitalism" of private equity vultures looking to profit off of Puerto Rico's devastation, demonstrators also took aim specifically at President Donald Trump for continuing to ignore the plight of Puerto Rico, leaving thousands without basic necessities.

"We need to rebuild PR and push for a just recovery that puts people before debt,"  LatinoJustice PRLDEF declared.

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