While many may think this image has been altered, it was not. This is an actual photo taken on October 25, 1977 when a group of unarmed Puerto Rican activists gathered to protest demanding the release of Puerto Rican Nationalist prisoners. This was an act of symbolism illustrating their hopes of freedom and independence in putting an end to the discrimination that Puerto Ricans were enduring.
On November 5, 2000, Puerto Rican activist, Alberto de Jesús Mercado, better known as Tito Kayak, along with five other protesters went to the top of the Statue of Liberty in New York City where he bravely placed the Puerto Rican flag on the statue’s crown. On June 13, 2005, Kayak was arrested at the United Nations headquarters in New York City for attempting to switch the United Nations banner with the Puerto Rican flag, while the United Nations Special Committee met to discuss the political state of the island. Prior to this, Kayak wanted the U.S. military out of Vieques since the bombings were causing extreme harm to the natives, deteriorating the health of the residents and even killing civilians. Kayak and his supporters successfully completed their mission. The U.S. Navy departed from Vieques in 2003. Kayak has done time for trespassing and hanging the Puerto Rican flag in places where it was not welcome. With the state doing everything they possibly could to incriminate him, his lawyer stated that under the First Amendment Kayak has the right to freedom of self-expression. Face to face with adversity, Kayak did not back down. In his own words, he made it clear to a judge, “You can put me in jail, but there are many Puerto Rican women and men who will follow in fighting for a just cause. Do you know what the saying on my shirt, ‘Bieké o Muerte,’ means? Well, they do, and they will fight from their hearts as I do for our liberation from colonial occupation.”
From December 11, 1898 to 1952 the Puerto Rican flag was outlawed. It was considered a crime to display the Puerto Rican flag in public. The only banner allowed in Puerto Rico during that period was the American flag.