I am on my way to Indianapolis in just a few hours to speak for the National Urban League and would love to see you or your family if you are anywhere near the convention.
There’s a lot going on in the world right now but this morning I want to break down two very important stories for you.
First, have you seen the pictures and videos of the protests in Puerto Rico? I’m so proud of the people for standing up to their corrupt governor, but I’m also jealous that our streets don’t look like that after all that Trump has done.
Secondly I’ll tell the story of the two Louisiana police officers who were just fired for threatening to shooting and kill Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortex.
In September of 2017, a category 5 hurricane hit Puerto Rico. It was the strongest, deadliest, costliest hurricane to ever hit Puerto Rico. A staggering $91 billion of damage was done, but that $91 billion in damage – effectively destroyed the entire power grid of the island – leaving 95% of Puerto Rico without power, 95% of the island without cell phone service, and over half of the island without any clean water. Here’s how bad it was – four months after the hurricane hit – 450,000 people still didn’t have any electricity. We’re talking about 120 days later. Thousands of people died as a result of not just the hurricane, but of the devastating aftermath. And in the wake of it all – it wasn’t just that resentment built because of the conditions, but resentment built because of widespread corruption and cronyism and mismanagement from Governor Ricardo Rossello and his entire administration. To say that the man has dropped the ball would be an understatement.
I said all of that to say that Puerto Rico has gone through hell these past few years – and people’s nerves are frayed – then, just 10 days ago, Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism released 900 pages of text messages not just from Governor Rossello, but from 11 of his cabinet members. The messages were not just homophobic, bigoted, anti-woman, and disgusting – they were even violent – with death threats targeted toward other American politicians, cultural figures, and more. They spoke flippantly about victims of the hurricane.
And in 10 days, the entire island has now been gripped with protests. Multiple cabinet members have resigned, the Governor, Rossello, has said he won’t run for reelection, but it’s not enough, and hundreds of thousands of people have packed the capitol in the largest protests in Puerto Rican history.
I’m proud of the people, particularly the young people there, who are fueling these protests. I give my support to them – and encourage them to never let up. Now, I just wish we could have protests like that here on the mainland. We have a lot to learn – you can’t adjust to the bigotry and ugliness of leaders – because before you know it, you’ll get used to it.
Our nation, and I’ve said this on social media, but I mean it, our nation is far more fragile right now than I think most people truly want to admit.
Our next story, I believe, is a sign of that.
I love New Orleans. But New Orleans is a lot like Atlanta and other big cities in the South – in that if you go just a few miles outside of New Orleans – or outside of Atlanta – or outside of Charlotte or Memphis – you learn real quick that you aren’t in the big city anymore.
And that’s Gretna, Louisiana – it’s literally 10 minutes away from New Orleans, but the police department there has a long, ugly history with bigotry. The whole city of Gretna does, really. And of course Gretna has great people – but they stay in the news over racist foolishness.
And now, two police officers were just fired after posting on Facebook how they’d like to shoot to kill Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Charles Rispoli, the officer who wrote the Facebook post, and Angelo Varisco, who liked it, were officers in the Gretna Police Department. Good for the police chief there, Arthur Lawson, for firing these two men. They not only violated department policy – Charles Rispoli, who made the post, where he said, Ocasio-Cortez “needs a round — and I don’t mean the kind she used to serve” as a bartender – needs to also be prosecuted by Capitol Police. It’s a federal crime to threaten the life of a Congressperson.
But this threat didn’t come from nowhere. It’s a sign of the times. The President of the United States has targeted, harassed, and demeaned Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez over and over again, not just on social media, but at his rallies, and before the press – and when the President of the United States demeans and dehumanizes somebody, it makes them a target for his followers – and that’s exactly what we’ve seen happen here. And it’s exactly what the congresswomen being targeted by Trump said would happen.
Now, it’s a bit off-topic, but how wild is it that the officers who threatened AOC were fired in less than a week, but the officer who murdered Eric Garner is still on the force 5 years later?