Statehood supporters planted a series of miniature American flags along a stretch of grass leading up to the Mayor’s House in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Friday after Carmen Yulín Cruz was accused of lowering the U.S. flag as part of a demonstration for a jailed independence leader.
Several prominent Puerto Ricans locked themselves in a jail cell symbolically for 15 minutes on Wednesday to protest the continued imprisonment of independence fighter Oscar López Rivera, who has been jailed for the last 32 years. Mayor Cruz participated, writing “I love you Oscar” on the wall of the cell, according to El Nuevo Día.
The cause is a popular one in Puerto Rico, where the demonstration attracted the likes of Calle 13’s René Pérez, former baseball player Carlos Delgado and ex-Puerto Rican Gov. Aníbal Acevedo.
But the protest brought controversy for Mayor Cruz, when statehood supporters accused her of lowering the U.S. flag to show solidarity with the protesters -- an allegation the Cruz denies.
“We’re showing our indignation over Carmen Yulín’s arbitrary action,” José Pablo Vivaldi, the vice president of the National Progressive Party Youth that organized the flag-planting, told Puerto Rican daily El Nuevo Día.
Cruz responded by saying that her accusers are “very comfortable in the sewer of lies and defamation.” Prior to the miniature flag planting, she posted two images of the U.S. flag on the Mayor’s residence to Twitter.
Nevertheless, the accusations ruffled feathers among a pro-statehood movement that has pushed aggressively since November to get the U.S. Congress to make the island the 51st state.
Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi, one of the island’s most prominent statehood supporters, sounded off on the issue.
“I’ve heard that in San Juan they’ve basically lowered the United States flag and I think that’s not good at all,” Pierluisi said, according to Primera Hora. “Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, we are American citizens. We should respect not only our flag, but also that of the United States.”
Puerto Rican law specifies that the island’s flag and that of the United States must fly on government buildings at the same height.
Despite his opposite to the alleged flag-lowering, Pierluisi said he favored pardoning López Rivera.