The summer of dissent


Anayansi Santiago

During Senior Anayansi Santiago’s visit to Puerto Rico in July, residents of the island were mass protesting against then governor Ricky Rosello. Rosello ended up resigning, being replaced by two different governors, Pedro Pierluisi and then Wanda Vazquez.

By Aurora Jimenez Castro, Lake Brantley High School

Throughout the summer students were stocking up on the essentials: sunscreen, towels and a sturdy pair of sandals. Meanwhile, thousands of young people, including students at Lake Brantley, prepared for a summer of dissent with posterboard, goggles and empty pots to create a cacerolazo, a form of protest that consists of banging on pots to make as much noise as possible.

For over 11 weeks, students and other young people led the way in Hong Kong and Puerto Rico, protesting against their respective governments. In Hong Kong, citizens, including junior exchange student Carrie Lau, are fighting against an extradition bill, which would allow someone arrested in Hong Kong to face trial elsewhere. This bill has the ability to undermine Hong Kong’s autonomy from China, a point of contention for many citizens. In Puerto Rico, citizens spent the summer protesting governor Ricky Rosello, who came under fire for profane leaked messages and increasing government corruption on the island.

Senior Anayansi Santiago was in San Juan, Puerto Rico during the protests which started on July 18. The trip was planned to visit family, however the island was currently involved in  a massive protest against their sitting governor. The trip continued as planned, but Santiago made a much needed pit stop in San Juan.

“As a Puerto Rican, it was truly inspiring to see the entire island come together in unity to achieve a goal,” Santiago said. “I am proud to call myself Puerto Rican and to know that I have an identity within the millions of protesters that were able to make the change they wanted to see happen.”

The protests in Puerto Rico dominated the news, inspiring some similar protests on the mainland United States. After pressures caused Rosello to step down, his replacement, Pedro Pierluisi, was impeached, making Wanda Vasquez the governor. While she plans on keeping the position many citizens dislike her. In total, the island had three governors in the span of a week.

“Change is possible in wherever country you are from,” Santiago said. “I feel very hopeful for the future, this can be the first of many democratic overthrows in the coming future in which people can come together for the greater good.”

What is seen through the screen of a TV can feel very real when surrounded by the energy of demonstrators vying for liberty. Many students did not experience that feeling over the summer, but Lau did.

“I participated, my friends at home are still protesting, I tell them that they have to keep going, we believe in the cause,” Lau said. “It is a demonstration, we walk from North Point to Admiralty, the whole process is hot and tiring but that’s what we have to do.”

From afar, watching a protest in your home country can be notably heartbreaking and may create a feeling of hopelessness. Lau and the other young people participating in these demonstrations do not feel that way.

While the extradition bill in Hong Kong was suspended, the demonstrations continue due to Chinese rule and surveillance. Lau wants them to end as soon as possible, and hopes for China’s secession. As the protests and disorganization continue in Hong Kong and Puerto Rico, neither Lau nor Santiago plan to step down and neither do the places they come from.

“I wish Americans could understand our urge to protect our city, and they can see right from wrong, that we want freedom,” Lau said. “America is famous for freedom, right? We want the same.”

This story was originally published on The Brantley Banner on August 25, 2019.