A Weekly Roundup of Politics: Puerto Rico Protests, Send Her Back Rally, and Japanese Arson

Puerto Rico Protests

The streets of Puerto Rico’s capital San Juan were littered with debris this morning after a massive protest raged throughout the night. Some estimate over 100,000 people showed up facing tear gas and rubber bullets to demand the resignation of governor Ricardo Rosselló. Tensions have been ramping up for months due to a lagging economy, a slow rebuilding after hurricane Maria, and corruption. The tipping point? A recent disclosure of over 900 pages of messages between the Governor and his cabinet members joking about dead bodies piling up from the hurricane, along with hundreds of misogynistic, homophobic, and fat-shaming comments.

The corruption scandal rattled the Governor’s office earlier this month when two cabinet officials were arrested for wire fraud, theft, and money laundering, and were also charged with offering lucrative business deals to friends. As the economy slows in Puerto Rico, the government has had to cut back on essential services and has outsourced them to private companies in both the education and health sectors. Julia Keleher, the secretary of education, and Ángela Ávila-Marrero, the head of Health Administration, were both arrested by the FBI in what signaled to the Puerto Rican people that their fears of a corrupt government were grounded in reality. 

While the Governor has apologized for the bigoted comments, he has refused to resign. Meanwhile, the mayor of San Juan Carmen Yulín Cruz has encouraged people to protest and is also running for Governor to replace Roselló. One of the chats discovered in the trove of released documents finds Roselló stating that he would be doing one of his cabinet members a “grand favor” by shooting Cruz. Cruz has filed a report over the death threats and has implored Puerto Rico’s legislative bodies to begin impeachment hearings immediately. 

Send Her Back Rally

The President spent a good portion of his campaign rally in North Carolina on Wednesday evening riling up his base with xenophobic tropes. A rallying cry from the crowd repeated the chant “Send Her Back!” referring to Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who is both an American citizen and an immigrant from Somalia. This chilling and overt racism comes after Trump sent out a flurry of tweets over the weekend telling four freshman Congresswomen to “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” He also tweeted: “Our Country is Free, Beautiful, and Very Successful. If you hate our country, or if you are not happy here, you can leave!” All four Congresswomen are women of color, American citizens, and three of them were born in the States. 

Trump claimed on Twitter that he doesn’t have a racist bone in his body, but he has not hid his racism in the past when discussing people from “shithole countries.” He has publicly called people from Mexico rapists and drug dealers and said that Nigerian immigrants would never “go back to their huts.” 

Knowing the President of the United States is racist and anti-immigrant should sound alarms for legislators on both sides of the aisle in a nation founded by immigrants (albeit on stolen land), but as Congress revealed on Wednesday the support for the President remains on party lines.

The House voted on a resolution condemning the President’s racist remarks, and only four Republicans stood with the Democrats. 

Japanese Anime Studio Arson

A 33-year-old man yelled “You Die!” as he burst into the Kyoto Animation Studios in Tokyo, Japan on Thursday. He then poured flammable liquid all over the studio and lit a match. His destructive and vengeful attack left 33 people dead and several others wounded in the quickly spreading blaze. Kyoto Animation, otherwise known as KyoAni, was founded in the early 1980’s and has a bit of a cult following. It was unclear what the man’s motive was at the onset, but survivors and spectators claim to have overheard his discussion with the police and it seems as though the man believes something was stolen from him. Very little is known about the man except he did not work for the studio and was taken into police custody with significant burns from the fire. 

The studio is revered for its over 40 years of work in the TV and movie industries. Famous for Lucky Star, K-On! and Violet Evergarden, KyoAni was also admired for paying its staff a living wage. Standard salaries are not typical in the anime industry, as most animation houses pay their staff per frame. Although the company had received death threats via email in the past, the arson comes as a significant shock to the community. This is the second most deadly arson in the country’s history. 

Ann Lewis is an artist, activist, and writer based in Detroit. Her artwork reflects upon social and environmental justice issues.

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