The chaos that was the "Puerto Rican Riots" left the details and origins of the events largely unknown to many. In my interviews with Gil Medina, Carl Poplar, and Joe Rodriguez, people heavily immersed in the riots, the actual name of "Horacio Jimenez" was never spoken and the details of that night when "Jimenez" was beaten into a coma were vague. That's not to say that they weren't experts in what happened in 1971, but this does show a sort of general aloofness about the trigger of the riots themselves. This past week, I've been looking through much the newspaper microfilm articles that I printed back at the Philadelphia Central Library. In order to fully grasp the situation in 1971, I read articles from both before and after, what I found was a fuller picture of the story.
|Warren Worrell(middle) and parents|
Certainly, the situation is a disturbing one and in the wake of the Trayvon Martin case and the unrest that followed the trial, the similarities are eerie. What seems apparent is that all parties in this case had holes in the credibility of their cases. Gonzales had been drinking, based on his comments and preferences, Worrell was not battle shy, and Miller had managed to get himself into trouble right after getting out of it. For all, it was truly the wrong place and wrong time. As the audience, it is difficult to not feel biased in one way or another, but the fact of the matter is that we do not know what happened. All we know is that something like this shouldn't happen. "A judge and jury have all the time in the world to make a decision but a policeman must make his decision in a split second," stated Miller. Whether what they did was wrong or right, this must be taken into consideration. As discomforting as this incident was, it is more discomforting to know that all the damage and chaos that came as a result of this could have been different. Mayor Nardi had time, as did Public Safety Director Yeager. They had the audacious opportunity to use the beating of Gonzales as a springboard to communication with the community and an investigation of the practices within the police department. But what happened was quite different and the city bore the consequences. Hopefully, we can understand this and know that what happened to Gonzales and what happened to Trayvon Martin are cases that no one wishes would have ever happened but our reactions to them, what lesson we gain from them, practical or abstract, is what matters from here on forth.