SAN JUAN, PR – An afternoon of extraordinary protests requiring Georg Ricardo A. Rosselló, immediately resigned from Puerto Rico, became chaotic late on Monday when riot police launched tear gas and pepper spray into a crowd of thousands of demonstrators.
The gas gases after 8:30 dispersed much of the collection that had swelled outside the governor's mansion, La Fortaleza. But some protesters forced the authorities to sit in a row in front of the police wall, raise their arms and hold their hands.
"Somos más now called miedo!" Shout it. There are more of us, and we are not afraid.
As the crowd began to approach again, the narrow streets of Old San Juan filled up while singing against the governor, police released the pepper spray. Nevertheless, protesters remained nearby. The officers began to fire, exploit more gas and later shoot rubber balls.
Police Commissioner Henry Escalera told reporters that some protesters had thrown cobblestones, bottles and tear gas by the officers for more than two hours of standoff.
"We're here to preserve the right to express themselves," he said. "We will defend democracy until the last blood drop."
The tense confrontation marked an escalation of the dramatic political crisis that began in Puerto Rico after hundreds of pages of a private chat on the Telegram message program between Mr Rosselló and some of his closest assistants leaked on Saturday, revealing a lot of unpleasant and inappropriate exchanges.
The leak, which came on the heels of high-profile federal corruption punches last week, released months of stuffy frustration over Rossello's handling of Hurricane Maria, his education policy and the federal monitoring committee that controls Puerto Rico's troubled finances.
"The chat was the last straw," says Norma Jean Colberg, 58, one of the protesters. 19659002] She compared Monday's demonstrations to those held by Puerto Ricans in early 1999 against the military presence on the island of Vieques. "If the people managed to get the Navy from Vieques, we will be able to get this governor out," she said.
Puerto Ricans organized minor protests in non-island solidarity, including in New York and Washington.
The authorities had made at least three arrests, Escalera said in a late night conference in La Fortaleza. Outside, a fire burned about one block away. Protesters remain nearby when firefighters arrived to lay out the flames. Luis Cordero, a police officer, said protesters had set fire to the trash in the warehouse that served as a buffer between the crowd and the police.
In a statement, Rosselló, who was not in the mansion at the time of the clashes, called the protests "an expression that I respect and keep in mind." He regretted that some protesters "chose to damage property and attack officials trying to keep public order."
"There are many other ways to be heard," he said.
The screenings continued late at night when the protesters pressed themselves to get closer to the mansion and officers responded with more rubber balls.
Many protest posters showed "4,645" to the number of people, according to a Harvard study, who may have died after Hurricane Maria.
"My mother died on November 13, 2017 after the storm," said Mildred Feliciano, 55, of Yabucoa, PR "I'm here for her."
Mr.. Rosselló, who has insisted that he will not go down, tried to maintain a normal normality, hold regular Monday meetings and publish on Twitter a photograph of himself on the head of a conference table surrounded by his team.
"I'll continue," said Rosselló in the radio interview, and repeated that he felt remorse for his actions. "We are all injured – I'm dark – but I recognize it, and I have to get back."
But on a sign of how unfair the day was, after Rosselló left a radio station and ignored a compulsion by journalists, a television crew jumped into a car and gave chase to the governor's motorcade, moving live on television.
Governor's wife Beatriz Rosselló also issued an unusual statement calling on Puerto Ricans to forgive her husband and
On Monday evening, a lawyer from Puerto Rico's House of Representatives introduced legislation to bring charges against Mr. Rosselló. But House and Senate leaders, both of whom are governed by the Governor's new progressive party, have said they are planning to give Mr Rosselló time to reflect on their future. He had previously been expected to seek re-election by 2020.