A park in Illinois is investigating a racist incident in Cooks County where a woman recorded a man harassing her for wearing a Puerto Rican flag, as well as a nearby park police officer who stood by while the incident unfolded.
The incident occurred on June 14 at a picnic area while Mia Irizarry was about to set up for her 24th birthday party.
She said she politely asked a few people to leave the picnic site because she’d rented the area and had a permit.
A white man, who appeared intoxicated, then came up to Irizarry and told her she shouldn’t be wearing a shirt with the Puerto Rican flag on it.
“You should not be wearing that in the United States of America. Are you a citizen?” the man can be heard saying in a video recording of the incident posted on Facebook.
WATCH: The full video of the incident, from Mia Irizarry’s Facebook page
“You’re not going to change us. The world is not going to change the United States of America, period,” he continued.
“Why is she wearing that s**t?”
He can also be seen coming towards Irizarry quickly and while speaking loudly.
During the confrontation, she is heard telling him that the U.S. owns Puerto Rico and that she is a citizen. She also asked him to step away from her repeatedly.
She also calls for help from a police officer who can be seen hovering outside the picnic area saying she felt threatened and uncomfortable. The police officer didn’t respond.
Eventually, Irizarry’s brother Nathan comes by and gets between Irizarry and the man.
That’s when the police officer interferes, trying to talk to the man.
Another female police officer eventually comes on scene, and talks to the people involved, asking Irizarry what happened.
She also can be heard reprimanding the intoxicated man.
“People have just as much right to be here as you do,” she said to him.
The female officer explained that the park police were called for an unrelated event in the same area.
After more officers arrived, the man was arrested and charged with assault and disorderly conduct, according to officials.
The Forest Preserves of Cook County said on Twitter they were aware of the incident and that the original officer has been placed on desk duty.
“All people are welcome in the Forest Preserves of Cook County and no one should feel unsafe while visiting our preserves,” the tweet reads.
After more police arrived, the original officer sat down with Irizarry to take her statement.
When Irizarry recounted the time she asked the officer for help, he said he was in the area for an earlier call.
“When I was called here, it was between these people (points away from the camera) so… you know, now that I’ve seen what’s going on … at no time was he going to attack you — he’s just a big mouth,” he explained.
But Irizanny said, “You just never know” when an incident can escalate.
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Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello condemned the officer and the man’s actions on Twitter on Monday, calling the man a “bigot.”
“I am appalled, shocked & disturbed by the officer’s behavior,” he wrote.
“We will be looking into this incident as our offices in DC are in contact with local and state authorities, demanding that this officer be expelled from the police force. He failed to deescalate the situation and therefore did not ensure a citizen’s safety.”
He also called on Cook County Board president Toni Preckwinkle to take matters into her own hands.
Preckwinkle responded the next day calling the verbal harassment “appalling and completely unacceptable.”
“I am very sorry for the experience the young woman had to ensure and I’m further troubled by the lack of response and action by the initial officer on the scene. The Forest Preserves immediately launched an investigation into the incident,” she wrote on Twitter.
A police report obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times names the officer as Officer Sloma, and the man as Timothy Trybus.
Puerto Rico is a U.S. Territory and its residents are U.S. citizens. They are not allowed to vote for president and instead of a congressperson, it has a delegate in the House of Representatives.
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