Protester: ‘We are tired of being brave, we want to be free’
Activists shut down street to demand that Women’s Advocate Office take action against gender violence
By Pedro Correa Henry
Special to The Star
“Where were they when we were being killed?” Where were they when we were being raped?”
This is what women’s rights defenders chanted Tuesday in front of the Women’s Advocate Office (OPM by its Spanish initials) headquarters as they demanded meaningful action from the agency amid the increase in femicides and gender violence in Puerto Rico.
A group of women’s rights activists, organizers, and community leaders blocked the street in front of the OPM on Juan Ponce de León Avenue in Hato Rey to demand a state of emergency for gender violence and call out the office’s lack of action.
“We mobilized ourselves, organizers, activists, members of the [LGBTQIAP+] community because we are tired! We are tired of waking up day by day, listening to the names of every woman that has been taken away from us. We are tired of getting killed, getting raped, disappearing, getting violated, getting attacked, and nothing is being done,” said a protester minutes before they began reading the names of every victim of gender violence that was written on a black and white banner.
The protester said that both the OPM and the central government “have the responsibility and duty to guarantee our safety and welfare, to implement public policies and address the structural issues that kill us every day.”
Women’s Advocate Lersy Boria Vizcarrondo, meanwhile, repudiated “the use of violence to seek an end to violence against women” as demonstrators threw red liquid and pieces with the names of every cis and trans women who have been murdered written on them, which differed from a 2002 event in which male-identifying politicians broke into the office to put a U.S. flag inside.
“In the OPM, we work with committed people to eradicate once and for all violence in all its manifestations. The events witnessed today in our office violate the dignity of the 17 people who fight daily for the rights of Puerto Rican women. We were the object of an act of vandalism; the receptionist was attacked. Is this how we want to work against violence?” Boria Vizcarrondo said in a written statement. “Those who think that, through these actions, threats or attacks will lessen the desire to continue working, are wrong; our commitment to Puerto Rico is much stronger. This [public] servant will not allow violence and abuse to reign. This is not the first time that some, by running over us, try to silence us and intimidate us; ENOUGH NOW.”
The Puerto Rico Police Bureau (PRPB) reported that at around 10:48 a.m. it was alerted about a demonstration taking place in front of the Popular Center in Hato Rey, on the premises of the Office of the Women’s Advocate.
According to the PRPB, a group of 15 to 20 protesters carried out the demonstration and requested that a state of emergency be declared on the island due to the femicides that have occurred. At the time it was indicated that the women tried to enter the OPM by force, for which reason the agents had to intervene with the demonstrators. It was reported that damages, if any, are to be verified.
Data from the PRPB indicates that 31 adult women and two minors have been slain so far this year. That figure does not include the violent deaths of six trans people. According to independent outlet Bandera Roja, 40 femicides and 53 complaints of missing women and girls have occurred so far this year.