Hundreds of thousands of protesters occupied the largest highway in San Juan Monday to demand Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló resign.
Monday’s “March of the People” marked the largest protest in recent Puerto Rico history, NBC News reported. The national strike day comes one day after Rosselló announced in a Facebook post he would not seek re-election next year but also would not resign despite days of protests calling for him to step down. Protests demanding his ouster have raged for 10 days.
"This has never happened in Puerto Rico before," University of Puerto Rico political science professor Angel Rosa told CNN.
Singer Ricky Martin took part in the protest and urged others to come out.
"If he still refuses to resign, that’s the only option we have. It’s on you to listen to the massive demands of each Puerto Rican person,” Martin said.
Calls for resignation come after leaked chats, mounting corruption:
The calls for the governor’s resignation comes after nearly 900 pages of leaked messages between Rossello and his inner circle were filled with homophobic, misogynistic, and offensive slurs. The messages also mocked hurricane victims and attacked journalists and political opponents.
Though the leaked messages sparked the protests, many protesters say the messages were simply the final straw for an administration marred by rising corruption.
"I am fed up with the thieving government. I am fed up with corruption. I am fed up with lack of integrity," protester Maristella Gross told CNN.
“This month, the FBI arrested Puerto Rico’s former secretary of education and five other people for allegedly misusing $15.5 million in federal money by directing it to well-connected but unqualified contractors. The territory has declared bankruptcy and is still struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island in 2017,” The Washington Post reported.
Rossello announced Sunday he would not step down but said he would not seek re-election and would resign as the head of his New Progressive Party.
"I leave aside any personal interest by not running for re-election to the governorship next year," he said on Facebook.
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz told CNN that his refusal to resign has “added fuel to the fire.”
"We are prepared here at City Hall with a makeshift emergency unit with medics and doctors and nurses to take in anybody that receives tear gas or has a cut in their body or potentially been shot," she said.
Democratic 2020 candidates join resignation calls:
Numerous 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls have called on Rossello to step down.
Former HUD Secretary Julian Castro was the first candidate to call for the governor to step aside and was soon joined by New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker, Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, and author Maryanne Williamson.
Despite being part of the United States and paying taxes, Puerto Ricans cannot vote in the general election. They can vote in the Democratic primary, however.