Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

protest against Ricardo Rosselló

Demonstrators and police face off during a protest against Ricardo Rosselló, the governor of Puerto Rico, on July 17, 2019 in Old San Juan. Police used tear gas and fired rubber bullets. (Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Police Fire Tear Gas and Rubber Bullets at Protesters Demanding Puerto Rico Gov. Rosselló Resign

"We are rising up because we deserve better."

Jessica Corbett

Police deployed tear gas and fired rubber bullets at protesters in Puerto Rico's capital city of San Juan late Wednesday on the fifth consecutive day of mass demonstrations to demand the resignation of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló.

The Miami Herald reported from the scene as hundreds of protesters and police faced off on the colonial streets outside La Fortaleza—the governor's mansion—in the neighborhood of Old San Juan.

Some protesters threw firecrackers, bottles of water, beer, and glowsticks at the officers barricaded around the governor's home. Portions of the crowd called for others to stop inciting violence, leading chants like "No tiren" — stop throwing—as tensions boiled over between rioters and police.

Shortly before midnight, the officers issued a warning to the crowd to disperse. Minutes later, police shot rubber bullets at the crowd, injuring protesters and journalists. The tear gas drove panicked demonstrators away from the barricades and against a nearby chapel. Some climbed the fence or pried open the gates of the iconic Parque de las Palomas.

NBC News producer Annie Rose Ramos shared videos of the confrontation on Twitter:

Wednesday marked the second time this week that police used tear gas outside the governor's mansion amid growing outrage directed at Rosselló, a member of Puerto Rico's New Progressive Party who is affiliated with Democrats nationally.

Despite the mounting unrest, Rosselló has refused to step down. He told reporters in a news conference on Tuesday, "I have not committed any illegal acts, I only committed improper acts," and "I will continue my work and my responsibility to the people of Puerto Rico."

Calls for Rosselló to resign were sparked by Puerto Rico's Center for Investigative Journalism publishing screenshots last week of sexist, homophobic, mocking, and threatening messages from a private group chat that included the governor and several of his top staffers—some of whom have left their positions this week. On Saturday, the center released the full chat thread, which spans 889 pages.

However, as Common Dreams reported Monday, "the chat was the final straw." Since Rosselló took office in January of 2017, Puerto Ricans have expressed frustration with government corruption and how he has handled both the island's debt crisis and recovery from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, which devastated the territory nearly two years ago.

The chaos outside La Fortaleza Wednesday night came after thousands of Puerto Ricans marched through the narrow streets of Old San Juan that afternoon, chanting "Ricky Renuncia," which means "Ricky Resign" in Spanish. Some of the island's famous performers—rappers Bad Bunny and Residente, singer Ricky Martin, and actor Benicio del Toro—joined the march.

"The crowd ranged from teenagers to retirees, with some waving the island's flag printed in black and gray rather than red, white, and blue to symbolize their discontent with a government they call corrupt and unresponsive to its people," according to The Associated Press. "Many older protesters went home before nightfall as chanting young people filled Old San Juan's Totem Plaza and the first few blocks leading up to the 16th century fortress where the governor resides."

Demands for Rosselló's resignation have come not only from residents of the island but also Puerto Rican communities across the mainland—with protests in California, Florida, New York, and Washington D.C.

The controversy comes as Puerto Rico is only in the second month of this year's hurricane season, which goes through the end of November, and as the island still struggles to rebuild from the devastating 2017 storms.

As 350.org's U.S. national organizer Amira Odeh—who is from Bayamón, Puerto Rico—said Wednesday in a statement supporting the demonstrations, "We are rising up because we deserve better."

Odeh criticized Rosselló and "his inner circles" for having "the audacity to joke about the lives of those lost, while doing nothing to ensure our long-term recovery." As she put it: "This is unacceptable and appalling, and as Puerto Ricans, we do not stand for this behavior."

"With hurricane season already upon us, Puerto Ricans are reminded of the toll that the combined effects of colonialism, classism, corruption, environmental destruction, and disaster capitalism have on our communities," Odeh added. "We need leaders and new models of democratic governance that are dedicated to just hurricane recovery, access to health and education services, and to having our human rights and right to safety respected without hurtful austerity measures."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Biden Decries 'Outrageous' Treatment of Haitians at Border—But Keeps Deporting Them

"I'm glad to see President Biden speak out about the mistreatment of Haitian asylum-seekers. But his administration's use of Title 42 to deny them the right to make an asylum claim is a much bigger issue."

Jessica Corbett ·


Global Peace Activists Warn of Dangers of US-Led Anti-China Pacts

"No to military alliances and preparation for catastrophic wars," anti-war campaigners from over a dozen nations write in a letter decrying the new AUKUS agreement. "Yes to peace, disarmament, justice, and the climate."

Brett Wilkins ·


PG&E Charged With 11 Felony Counts—Including Manslaughter—Over 2020 Zogg Fire

"PG&E has a history with a repeated pattern of causing wildfires that is not getting better," said Shasta County District Attorney Stephanie Bridgett. "It's only getting worse."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Hold My Pearls': Debbie Dingell Lets Marjorie Taylor Green Have It Over Abortion Rights

The Michigan Democrat engaged in a verbal altercation with the far-right Republican lawmaker from Georgia on the steps of the U.S. Capitol Building.

Jon Queally ·


Dems Who Opposed Pentagon Cuts Received Nearly 4x More Donations From Weapons Makers

The latest passage of the NDAA "is particularly strong evidence that Pentagon contractors' interests easily take precedence over national security and the public interest for too many members of Congress," said one critic.

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo