On Sunday, thousands marched at the National Mall in Washington D.C. to urge the Trump administration and Congress to provide more aid for Puerto Rico. Hundreds of rally-goers waved Puerto Rican flags, carried signs, and chanted “Puerto Rico, Presente” and “Puerto Rico Se Levanta” — meaning “Puerto Rico is Present” and “Puerto Rico Is Rising.”
After being ravaged by Hurricane Maria in September, roughly 54% of the island still finds itself without power and 10% of its citizens have no running water, as reported by the Puerto Rican government’s website.
Numerous celebrities, including actress Rita Moreno, celebrity chef Jose Andrés, and Hamilton playwright and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda, participated in Sunday’s protest. Miranda marched with his parents, carrying a large banner for the Hispanic Federation Fund, an organization founded by his father.
According to Miranda, the federation has raised an estimated $20 million for Puerto Rico but is unable to effectively help the island without the government’s help. “If the government would meet us where we already are, that would be a really incredible thing,” he said, speaking to the crowd. “We could keep raising money, but it’s not going to do any good if the government doesn’t help us.”
Thousands marched through D.C. to demand the U.S. government does its job and helps Puerto Rico pic.twitter.com/3gOGjdOF5k
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) November 21, 2017
Rep. Luis Gutierrez, who is of Puerto Rican descent, also spoke at the rally and criticized the government’s neglect of the island, which he described “one of the gravest injustices” he had seen since taking office. He proceeded to criticize President Trump for failing to help Puerto Ricans, many of whom serve in the armed forces when he dodged the draft numerous times.
“We have a president of the United States who on four occasions said, ‘My foot hurts, I cannot serve,'” Gutierrez said. “But he was able to take those feet to every golf course all over the world and walk on them. Well, let me just say to the president of the United States each and every time an airplane showed up in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, you filled it with Puerto Ricans and they said ‘Presente!'”
In comparison to its response to Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma’s devastation in Texas and Florida, the government has been slow to take effective action in Puerto Rico since the beginning. Wheres both Texas and Florida received help within a week, Puerto Rico had only been sent by one person to manage the disaster. The sentiment of being treated unfairly was a common theme during Sunday’s march in D.C., with some protesters carrying signs reading, “We are not second-class citizens.”
Miranda also touched on the issue during his speech, saying, “All we are asking is the same treatment as the same victims in Florida and the same victims in Texas.”
On Friday, the Trump administration requested that Congress approve $44 billion to aid Puerto Rico, far less than the $94 billion requested by the island’s governor, Ricardo Rossello, who stated that an estimated $31 billion was needed to for housing alone, with another $18 billion needed to rebuild Puerto Rico’s power grid.