Local videographers hope to create change in Puerto Rico
Two local videographers have published the first of several videos they hope will raise awareness about and ultimately change conditions in Puerto Rico.
Mark Floyd, 36, and Josh Barclay, 32, who live in Ledyard and Bozrah, respectively, went to the U.S. island territory from April 23 to May 2. The pair — they publish their videos as “Mark + Josh” — visited environmental lawyers, water testers, medical marijuana growers and protesters during their stay, gathering almost a terabyte in footage.
A May 1 International Workers’ Day protest is the subject of their first video, which includes comments from a teacher, a farmer, an oceanographer, a musician and a health care worker.
Barclay said he and Floyd knew people would be protesting recent cuts to the island’s government pensions, public health programs and schools, but neither had planned to cover the protests.
Yet both found themselves at the May 1 rally, which they said was uneventful until police began tear-gassing the crowds.
An NPR report about the rally said police tear-gassed protesters because they strayed from the agreed-upon route.
“Faced with a line of heavily armored police officers, some demonstrators tried to force their way through the barrier,” NPR reported. “Police responded by firing tear gas into the crowd, which sent people screaming as they fled for cover.”
Floyd and Barclay said the tear-gassing caught them off guard.
“We had just filmed (someone dressed as) Spider-Man on top of a car,” Floyd said. “Then we panned back and all of a sudden were getting hit with tear gas. None of it made sense.”
Barclay said he and Floyd care because last September’s Hurricane Maria was “one of the most devastating natural disasters on the island, ever, and the government is trying to cut everything.”
A federal judge on May 4 ordered an investigation into police’s response to the demonstration. The investigation continues.
While on the island, Barclay and Floyd worked with Julian Ortiz, president of the Connecticut Puerto Rican Agenda.
Ortiz lived in Puerto Rico for about a year in 2016 but returned to Connecticut to work for a Hartford city councilor in November that year.
Ortiz said he and others formed a Connecticut chapter of the National Puerto Rican Agenda after President Donald Trump was elected. Ortiz was elected president at the group’s first assembly in June last year.
The chapter had planned to discuss Puerto Rican issues on a broader scale, he said. But when Maria struck in September last year, the group instead began fundraising for disaster relief and then worked to help Puerto Ricans who had sought refuge in Connecticut.
Ortiz said Barclay and Floyd, whom he described as friends, asked him to accompany them to Puerto Rico so they could portray what really is happening there.
Ortiz, who said the “reality of repression” in Puerto Rico needed to be documented, called their first video a “good introduction to what is happening.”
He said he’s looking forward to the next videos Barclay and Floyd produce, which will focus on what Puerto Ricans are doing to improve their situation.
Although Floyd and Barclay’s first video asks viewers donate to the Connecticut Puerto Rican Agenda, Ortiz said his group is more focused on raising funds for other organizations.
“For us, it’s about mobilizing people,” Ortiz said. “We operate on a next-to-zero budget.”