From the November-December 2017 issue of News & Letters
Chicago—Puerto Ricans and supporters from the Mexican community and others gathered in sight of Trump Tower on Sept. 29 to demand that Puerto Rico get the aid it needs after being devastated by two hurricanes. Being forced by police to gather across the Chicago River from Trump Tower did not silence our attacks on President Trump’s indifference to the fate of 3.5 million residents left without power and even drinkable water.
HUMAN SOLIDARITY SHAMES TRUMP
One young woman made it clear that aid to Puerto Rico did not depend on the asserting of their citizenship. The fact that Puerto Ricans need aid to survive and the U.S. government has the resources to help Florida, Louisiana and Texas should be enough. A young man wanted nothing to do with an appeal to fellow Americans, considering that their citizenship was awarded in 1917 as a result of U.S. imperialism. He preferred to demand sovereignty.
One schoolboy talked passionately of how it amazed him that after he had packed his first box of relief supplies he had already done more to help Puerto Ricans than President Donald Trump. Many at the rally demanded the rescinding of the Jones Act, which impedes other countries from sending aid. As signs pointed out, under public pressure Trump had been shamed into suspending the Jones Act, but only for 10 days.
The rally took place before Trump’s trip to Puerto Rico where he told the few people who had power to hear him that they were not in a “real disaster” like Katrina. He pelted his audience with rolls of paper towels while claiming that Puerto Ricans want everything done for them—his variation on former President Ronald Reagan’s conjuring up welfare queens.
Trump knows that demonizing brown people plays well with his racist base. Reporters found survivors of Hurricane Harvey in Texas who had already gotten help from FEMA who did not think that Puerto Ricans should get the same aid. It will be up to Puerto Ricans themselves, on the island and on the mainland, to keep up the demands for aid from one human to another and for greater control of their destiny.