Police Abuse and Civil Rights Crisis
Congressman's Series of Floor Speeches This Year Warned Nation About
Civil Rights Violations and Out-Of-Control Use of Force By Present Ruling Party
(Washington) – The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) Civil Rights Division released a much anticipated report on police abuse of power and use of excessive force in Puerto Rico that paints a clear picture of systemic and sustained violations of constitutional rights of the Puerto Rican people. The report, dated September 5, confirms what Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-IL) has been warning the nation about with regard to Puerto Rico since he began making a series of speeches on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives to call attention to civil rights abuses on the island.
"When I started speaking out about the civil rights crisis in Puerto Rico the Governor, the Legislature and everyone else in the ruling party said there was no crisis and that I should just shut up," Rep. Gutierrez said. "But I kept speaking out because it was the right thing to do. When those who are sworn to protect and defend you are instead beating you and spying on you, any sense of justice, security, or faith in democracy goes out the window."
The Congressman, who started his series of speeches about civil and human rights abuses in Puerto Rico on the House floor in February (see below), earned an official act of censure from the Puerto Rican legislature in May of this year, which he proudly displays in his Capitol Hill office. He continued to speak out about civil rights on the House floor and in Puerto Rico itself and received widespread criticism by the supporters of the current Governor and his regime. The official response was that there was no civil rights crisis in Puerto Rico, that the Congressman was out of line and had no right to speak, and that in fact, he was being disloyal to his Puerto Rican heritage to suggest that there was a problem.
"The ruling party in Puerto Rico can no longer pretend that the island is not facing a civil rights crisis. It is now the responsibility of every Member of this Congress to make sure that immediate and effective steps are taken to protect the rights of the people of Puerto Rico and to stop the abuse of their rights," the Congressman said after reading the DOJ report.
The Congressman noted that Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and the national ACLU were also extremely helpful in making sure the DOJ report was released in a timely manner and not watered down to put the ruling party in Puerto Rico in a better light.
"For far too long, the ruling party in Puerto Rico devoted its time and energy condemning those who spoke out against abuses instead of stopping those who were being abusive to their own people," Gutierrez said. "This report not only underscores that abuse was taking place, but that it was aimed at suppressing dissent and first amendment rights."
The Congressman vowed to make sure that officials at every level of the federal government were made aware of the Department of Justice report.
"I will make sure every Member of Congress gets a copy of this report, I will ask that the Judiciary Committee Chairman hold hearings and I will continue to stand up for the rights of the Puerto Rican people. The DOJ report details the depths of this problem, and we all must work together to fix it now. There can be no more pretending that the problem is those who are willing to stand up and speak out."
The Congressman, who was born in Chicago to Puerto Rican parents, has lived and worked in Puerto Rico at various times in his life and currently owns a home and visits his family in Puerto Rico regularly.
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Gutierrez speech to House of Representatives on the civil and human rights crisis in Puerto Rico: February 16, 2011
Gutierrez speech to House of Representatives on the civil and human rights crisis in Puerto Rico: March 2, 2011
Gutierrez speech to the Colegio de Abogados, San Juan, Puerto Rico, on the civil and human rights crisis in Puerto Rico (in Spanish):March 23, 2011
Gutierrez speech to House of Representatives on the civil and human rights crisis in Puerto Rico: July 7, 2011
Additional speeches by Rep. Gutierrez on Puerto Rico: http://www.youtube.com/user/RepLuisGutierrez
¡Qué la Paz Prevalezca en la Tierra!