Heavy police presence continues at Rincón protest site
Some 300 demonstrators demand DNER stop condo pool construction at Almendros Beach
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
More Puerto Rico Police Bureau officers arrived Monday at Almendros Beach in Rincón to maintain surveillance along the perimeter of the pool construction site at the Sol y Playa condominium, where around 300 demonstrators continued to demand that the project be halted.
Since the early morning, citizens denounced on their social networks how police officers sealed off the only entrance to the beach with orange fencing and occupied most of the parking lot of the housing complex.
Twitter User Cofiño (@GonzalezSabe) said that at first glance there were “currently over 60 police vehicles (motorcycles, buses, trucks, patrol cars, one boat) and 83 agents guarding the illegal construction of a swimming pool.”
During the protest, citizens gathered around the concrete fence, singing and chanting “the beach is for the people,” while 20 Motorized Unit police agents holding batons looked on.
“Call the federal [police] monitor again, they’re not following orders,” shouted a demonstrator during a Facebook Live broadcast by activist Eliezer Molina. “The people massacred and the entire police force is here, what a shame!”
Tensions rose when some 20 Tactical Operations Unit agents surrounded the concrete fence and began removing protesters who were sitting on the sand.
At least three demonstrators were removed.
It was reported earlier in the day that police officers from the Ponce district were also assigned to the protest site to keep watch over the concrete fence that remains under dispute.
Although the Sol y Playa owners’ board claimed on Saturday they had stopped the project to rebuild a pool on the property that had been rendered unusable by Hurricane Maria, the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) had filed a cease and desist order on July 17 in which the housing complex was required to remove the concrete fence and stop the construction work immediately.
However, five days after the order, DNER Secretary Rafael Machargo Maldonado said in a written statement that the amended order “must have always been referring to ‘the wall in process’ or ‘wall under construction,’ parallel to the sea.”
He also stated that until either the Planning Board or the Permits Management Office modified the permit that was authorized to the Sol y Playa condo or a court ruled otherwise, the construction project would continue.
A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday at the Aguadilla Superior Court to evaluate the dispute between a Sol y Playa resident and the DNER regarding the pool construction site.
The controversy is fueled in no small part by the fact that Almendros Beach is a known nesting beach for green and hawksbill sea turtles.