FASH­ION STATE­MENT

Woman ha­rassed for wear­ing Puerto Ri­can shirt speaks out

Winnipeg Sun - - NEWS - DON BAB­WIN The As­so­ci­ated Press

CHICAGO — A woman shown on a video be­ing con­fronted by a man be­cause she was wear­ing a t-shirt em­bla­zoned with the Puerto Ri­can flag said Fri­day that the only ac­tion a park of­fi­cer took to defuse the sit­u­a­tion was to tell her cousin who’d stepped in to pro­tect her to calm down.

Speak­ing at a news con­fer­ence sur­rounded by lead­ers of Chicago’s Puerto Ri­can com­mu­nity, Mia Irizarry re­counted the June 14 in­ci­dent that re­ceived na­tional at­ten­tion af­ter re­lease of the video. Hate crime charges have been filed against 62-year-old Ti­mothy Try­bus, and Chicago for­est pre­serve of­fi­cer Pa­trick Con­nor has re­signed.

“It was ex­tremely sur­real to think that some­one whose job is to pro­tect and serve could just com­pletely walk away ...” she said at a park in a Chicago neigh­bour­hood with a large Puerto Ri­can pop­u­la­tion, in her first pub­lic com­ments about the in­ci­dent. “If I hadn’t recorded it I am pretty sure (the in­ci­dent) would not have ended with my safety.”

Irizarry, who was in the Chicago’s Cald­well Woods For­est Pre­serve when she was con­fronted by Try­bus, re­counted the feel­ing of help­less­ness she felt af­ter Try­bus asked if the flag on the shirt was that of Texas and re­sponded that it was the flag of Puerto Rico.

Try­bus scolded her, say­ing: “You should not be wear­ing that in the United States of Amer­ica,” and ques­tioned her about whether she was an Amer­i­can ci­ti­zen. Con­nor ap­peared to stand qui­etly sev­eral feet away. She said that “just en­cour­aged (Try­bus) to be more ag­gres­sive. So I was scared.”

Puerto Ri­can cit­i­zens au­to­mat­i­cally have U.S. cit­i­zen­ship.

She said she re­mains “se­verely dis­ap­pointed” that Con­nor quit with­out pub­licly ex­plain­ing his de­ci­sion not to come to her aid.

“I will never get to hear from this man, this pro­tec­tor, his rea­son­ing for why my safety, no, my life, had such lit­tle value to him,” she said, adding that she grate­ful that he no longer has a job where he might treat other like her.

A Chicago al­der­man and a state se­na­tor of Puerto Ri­can de­scent said the fall­out from the in­ci­dent is not over. State Se­na­tor Omar Aquino urged Irizarry to sue the of­fi­cer, re­mind­ing her that he pushed through leg­is­la­tion that al­lows her to “sue some­one for a hate crime.”

Al­der­man Roberto Mal­don­ado, wear­ing a t-shirt with a flag of Puerto Rico on it, urged Chicago res­i­dents to wear sim­i­lar shirts on July 20 to protest her treat­ment.

TERESA CRAW­FORD/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Mia Irizarry speaks at a news con­fer­ence in Chicago yesterday about an in­ci­dent in which a man con­fronted her about a T-shirt she wore em­bla­zoned with the Puerto Ri­can flag at a Chicago for­est pre­serve on June 14. Ti­mothy Try­bus, in­set, has been charged with a hate crime.

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