Thousands of people flooded the streets of San Juan on Monday, calling for Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló to resign from office. The mass demonstrations are expected to be one of the largest protests ever seen in a U.S. territory.
A scandal that recently exposed chat messages Rosselló sent among his inner circle showed the governor and his allies insulting women, gay people and mocking everyday Puerto Ricans, even victims of Hurricane Maria.
On Sunday, Rosselló announced that he will not step down. Instead, he said he would not seek re-election next year — a move that did little to dampen widespread protests that have now been held for 10 straight days. By noon Monday, demonstrators had already clogged a major highway, causing the island’s largest mall to close and prompting cruise stops to cancel port stops to keep tourists away.
“They can’t deny it: The power is in the street,” Carmen Yulín Cruz said on Twitter on Monday, as marchers filled the streets demanding that Rosselló be ousted.
The public display of anger comes after nearly 900 pages of profane and offensive private text messages were leaked in which sexist, homophobic and other derogatory language was repeatedly used.
A number of Puerto Rican celebrities have joined the movement against the governor, including Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and musician Bad Bunny and singer Ricky Martin, who was mocked in the controversial texts.
Many protest supporters are rallying around the Twitter hashtag #RickyRenuncia (Ricky Resign). The demonstrations are being described as the largest protest on the island in nearly two decades, as The Associated Press reports.
The leaked messages also showed discussions about trying to manipulate public opinion and discredit the work of a federal police monitor and journalists that were critical of the administration. In one text, the governor’s chief financial officer tried to make light of dead bodies that piled up during Hurricane Maria in 2017, which led to nearly 3,000 deaths.
The territory’s largest newspaper, El Nuevo Día, also called on Monday for Rosselló to resign.
The unrest comes as the struggle continues to recover from billions of dollars in damage Hurricane Maria caused to Puerto Rico, which has been stuck in a recession from more than a decade.
The backdrop for the mass demonstration also comes as officials continue to assess the fallout from a federal corruption indictment filed against two former top Puerto Rico officials for steering millions of dollars of government work to favored businesses.
“To every Puerto Rican man and every Puerto Rican woman, I’ve heard you and I hear you today,” he said “I’ve made mistakes, and I have apologized.”