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  • On Monday, Puerto Rico had what appeared to be one of its biggest protest ever. Hundreds of thousands of people took over one of the country’s largest highways to force Gov. Ricardo Rossello to resign.
  • Rossello has come under fire due to corruption charges leveled against his administration, as well as the leaking of 889 pages of online conversations between him and nine of his aides.
  • The messages are filled with misogynistic and homophobic obscenities, as well as a joke about hurricane victims. People are calling the scandal“Chatgate” or “Rickyleaks”.
  • On July 21, Rosello announced via Facebook video he would not seek re-election, but he would not resign as leader. Instead of quelling the demonstrators, it seemed to have fired protesters up further.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Puerto Ricans stormed the streets as they attempted to drive 40-year-old Gov. Ricardo Rossello from office.

On Monday, Puerto Rico had what appeared to be one of its biggest ever protests. Hundreds of thousands were expected to take over one of the country’s largest highways to force Rossello to resign. Reports indicate at least tens of thousands of people showed.

Rossello has come under fire due to corruption charges leveled against his administration, as well as the leaking of 889 pages of private messages between him and nine of his aides. The scandal — which has been dubbed “Chatgate” or “Rickyleaks” — includes obscenities directed at two female Puerto Rican politicians and at Puerto Rican pop star Ricky Martin. There was also a joke about dead bodies piling up after Hurricane Maria.

On July 21, Rosello announced via Facebook video he would not seek re-election, but he would not resign as leader. Instead of quelling the demonstrators, it seemed to have fired them up further.

Here’s how the protests came about and what happened in Puerto Rico on Monday.

On July 13, Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism published messages between Rosello and 11 of his aides. The homophobic, misogynistic, and profanity-laced messages discuss and insult former New York City council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, and singer Ricky Martin, among others.

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello during an interview in November 2017.

Brendan McDermid / Reuters

Sources: CNN, Puerto Rico’s Center for Investigative Journalism

Since then, hundreds of thousands protesters have taken to the streets. The mass demonstrations come after a culmination of factors.

Protesters demonstrate against Ricardo Rossello.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Source: Reuters

Along with the governor’s vulgar chat messages, the island has been dealing with a 13-year recession, the suspected corruption of the current administration, and a nationwide struggle to recover, after a series of deadly hurricanes in 2017, which are estimated to have caused more than $100 billion worth of damage.

Damaged electrical installations are seen after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria en Guayama, Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017.

REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Source: AP

On July 17, an estimated 500,000 demonstrators took to the streets in San Juan to demand the governor’s resignation. The entire island’s population is about 3 million people.

Thousands of demonstrators protested against Ricardo Rossello, the Governor of Puerto Rico July 17, 2019 in front of the Capitol Building in Old San Juan

Jose Jimenez / Getty

Sources: The Nation, World Population Review

It is the largest protest movement on the island since demonstrations occurred 15 years ago to successfully end US Navy military training on the island of Vieques.

Demonstrators chant slogans as they wave Puerto Rican flags during the seventh day of protest calling for the resignation of Governor Ricardo Rossello in San Juan, Puerto Rico July 19, 2019.

Gabriella N. Baez / Reuters

Source: Business Insider

The diversity of the protesters, including age, political ideologies, and class, is notable. According to The New York Times, protesters include retired people, students, hospitality staff, truck drivers, and electricians.

A hooded demonstrator waves a Puerto Rican flag during the seventh day of protest

Marco Bello / Reuters

Source: The Nation, The New York Times

The protesters have been typically peaceful. Along with filling the streets with songs, there have been yoga protests and demonstrations on jet skis and horses.

Demonstrators chant slogans as they wave Puerto Rican flags.

Gabriella N. Baez / Reuters

Source: NPR

But there has been a heavy police presence, and law enforcement have sometimes been aggressive in combating the protests, particularly on the nights of July 15 and 17.

Police detain a demonstrator during the fifth day of protests calling for the resignation of Governor Ricardo Rossello in San Juan

Gabriella N. Baez / Reuters

Source: The Nation

Police used tear gas on some protesters, and there have been reports of rubber bullets being fired.

Police used tear gas and reportedly fired rubber bullets late Wednesday evening during the protest.

Joe Raedle / Getty

Source: NPR

On July 17, in New York’s Union Square, protests took place in solidarity with Puerto Ricans. Protests have also happened in China, Holland, and Chile. Similar demonstrations are expected in major cities across the US mainland on Monday.

Protesters gather in New York’s Union Square

Andrew Kelly / Reuters

Source: Refinery29

Symbols have been attacked in the protests, including the US flag. Puerto Rico is a commonwealth of the US, and some are worried that the instability could cause the US to play more of a role in the governing of the island.

Demonstrators burn a US flag during clashes with police on the fifth day of protests.

Gabriella N. Baez / Reuters

Source: Business Insider, Washington Post

On the fifth day of demonstrations, a protester climbed a pole to remove the US flag.

Puerto Rican environmental activist Tito Kayak climbs the pole in front of the capitol building to take down the flag of USA during the fifth day of protest

Gabriella N. Baez / Reuters

Hurricane Maria is also remembered. The protester seen here has 4,645 written with special effects makeup on her forehead — one estimate for the number of people who were killed by the storm. This number has been controversial, because the island government originally identified only 64 victims. In August 2018, the government conceded that Hurricane Maria killed more than 2,975 people on the island, which many think was still an underestimate.

This demonstrator used body paint and makeup as a form of protest.

Gabriella N. Baez / Reuters

Sources: Reuters, Business Insider

On July 21, Rosello admitted he was wrong and apologized for the messages. On Facebook Live, he said he was aware of the population’s dissatisfaction and discomfort, and while he would not run for re-election, he wasn’t standing down. “Only my work will help restore the trust of these sectors,” he said in the video.

Governor Ricardo Rosello.

Alvin Baez / Reuters

Sources: USA Today, Facebook

But that wasn’t good enough for many Puerto Ricans. On July 22, one of the largest protests was held to force Rossello to step down. Organizers aimed for 1 million protesters.

Members of theatre group Papel Machete perform during a protest calling for the resignation of Governor Ricardo Rossello

Gabriella N. Baez / Reuters

Source: The New York Times

Reports haven’t confirmed how many people took to the streets, but it was at least in the tens of thousands.

People march along Las Americas highway.

Eric Rojas / AFP / Getty

Source: New York Times

The highways became overrun with protesters. Seen below is a flag that reads “enough” hung over a highway sign.

Demonstrators hang a Puerto Rican black and white flag that reads “Enough” on a highway sign.

Marco Bello / Reuters

It wasn’t just a walking protest. Dancers performed, and at least one protester was riding down the highway on horseback.

People dance on San Juan’s largest highway.

Eric Rojas / AFP / Getty

Celebrities, including Puerto Rican rappers Residente and Bad Bunny, joined in on Monday.

Puerto Rican celebrities including Residente and Bad Bunny joined the demonstrators.

Marco Bello / Reuters

Due to the heat, police reported 18 cases of fainting and dizziness. Luckily, in the afternoon, it rained during the demonstration. The rain didn’t deter the protesters.

People hold an umbrella against the rain during a protest in San Juan.

Marco Bello / Reuters

Sources: New York Times, CNN

US President Donald Trump weighed in on Rossello’s leadership. During a White House appearance, he accused the governor of being “corrupt and incompetent.” He said Washington was wary of sending aid to the island, precisely because of the administration. He also said he was the best thing to ever happen to Puerto Rico.

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Governor Ricardo Rossello of Puerto Rico in 2017.

Associated Press/Evan Vucci

Source: The New York Times

Protesters haven’t yet succeeded in getting Rossello to step aside, but he did appear on Fox News in the afternoon and said he wanted to stay in office. “My commitment is to follow through on some of the efforts that I established for the people of Puerto Rico,” he said.

Vocal protesters blocked the main road in Puerto Rico’s capital on Monday.

Eric Rojas / AFP / Getty

There’s been no official word yet whether protests will continue throughout the week, but it looks likely.

People fill the Expreso Las Américas highway.

Joe Raedle / Getty

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