A police officer seen on video ignoring a woman’s pleas for help as an angry white man harasses her for wearing a shirt bearing the Puerto Rican flag has resigned from the small Chicago-area police department where he worked for the past decade.
Officer Patrick Connor was seen passively watching from a distance as an older white man repeatedly approached the woman, his speech slurring and his voice elevated as he excoriated her for wearing the flag of the predominantly Spanish-speaking United States protectorate.
“You’re not gonna change us, you know that?” the man shouts, after rounding a pair of picnic tables to get up in the woman’s face. “You should not be wearing that in the United States of America. Are you a citizen?”
The woman and her companions ask Connor for help more than half a dozen separate times during the confrontation. At one point the angry man walks away from her to a position adjacent to officer Connor, then resumes shouting at her and marches up to within a few feet of her. Connor looks on without moving. It falls to a male companion of the woman to put himself physically between her and the angry racist guy and urge him to move away.
“That officer did absolutely nothing. He did absolutely zero. I told him I felt uncomfortable multiple times…and he literally didn’t do anything,” the woman says in the video.
The encounter took place in mid-June. Mia Irizarry, the woman who simply wore a Puerto Rico shirt to a barbecue, streamed the encounter live on Facebook that day. Connor was moved to desk duty weeks later after the video had gone viral, then quit outright on Wednesday.
The shouting man, eventually identified as 62-year-old Timothy Trybus, was eventually arrested on misdemeanor assault and disorderly conduct charges. Police union officials have defended Connor by arguing that the viral clip doesn’t tell the whole story of the episode. Critics, meanwhile, have suggested that Trybus’ misdemeanors should be upgraded to felonies under Illinois hate crimes law since they were motivated by racial animus — a decision that would potentially put a drunk racist shouter in a cage for two to five years under the state’s sentencing guidelines.
Trybus’ oddball assertion in the video that “the world is not gonna change the United States” rings especially sharp in the ear considering what’s happened in Puerto Rico over the last 10 months. After a massive hurricane devastated the U.S. territory last fall, the Americans living there were left without power or clean water for months. Relief efforts were widely criticized as slow and mismanaged. Survivors have repeatedly faced the threat of losing their temporary housing or food assistance because of bureaucratic deadlines and legislative inaction.
Despite a still-unknown death toll that could easily be in the thousands, Puerto Rico’s storm recovery did not receive the same level of attention from either the mainstream press or from elected officials in Washington as did the devastating but far less deadly storms in Texas earlier that same autumn. The relative inattention may have helped foster profiteering by unscrupulous contractors who know that the roughly 3.4 million Americans who live on the island aren’t worth as much to Congress and the press as their fellow voters in Texas.