ABC Protest Continues: Puerto Ricans Demand Apology, Want New Programming

It might just be too little, too late for ABC.

For the third week in a row members of the Puerto Rican community, led by the organization “Boricuas for a Positive Image,” have protested outside of ABC’s studios in Manhattan’s Upper West Side neighborhood.

ABC cancelled its new cross-dressing comedy "Work It" after just two episodes. According to reports from ABC has not acknowledged the reason for the cancellation.

The Puerto Rican campaign grew out of anger after one of the characters of the show said during the pilot episode: "I'm Puerto Rican. I would be great at selling drugs."

The remark ignited a firestorm.

Puerto Ricans to ABC: We are Not Drug Dealers!

Thursday was no exception as young and old protestors from the Latino and Black communities chanted in the frigid evening for ABC to apologize.

Julio Pabón, co-founder of “Boricuas for a Positive Image” along with Lucky Rivera, said that despite ABC canceling the show, they deserve a public apology.

“Canceling the show does not cancel the problems,” Pabón told FOX News Latino during the protest Thursday evening.

We are trying to prove them wrong. Just because [we are of this] race does not mean we do bad things.

— Kimberly Villanueva, 14 Yr-Old Protestor

“Racist jokes like these [cannot] continue to happen,” he added.  “We have to have an apology and a meeting to make sure this doesn’t happen again. The Puerto Rican and Latino community in New York City - we are 5 million strong. 1 trillion dollars in purchasing power deserves more respect.”

Rivera added that it’s a shame drugs are corrupting the community.

“The drugs in our community [and] in Puerto Rico that is the problem,” Rivera said. “Drugs are destroying our kids, our people and our island.”

New York City councilman Charles Barron thinks ABC should give the Puerto Rican and Latino community in NYC, “a program produced by the community, for the community.”

“We are the children of Fidel Castro,” Barron said fired up in front of the crowd. “We are the children of Malcom X, we are the children of Che Guevarra and our weapon is our culture. We demand that ABC respect the Black community, respect the Latino community.”

The former black panther, who was involved  in having ABC take “Like It Is” off the air in 2001--- a public affairs show about issues affecting the Black community--- thinks the  protests should escalate if ABC keeps ignoring them.

“When I met with them for “Like It Is” they said the Black and Latino communities are a large part of their audience,” Barron said. “If you’re going to make dollars off of us then you better respect us.”

“We should keep the pressure on,” he added. “They should keep a Latino program on there that is representative of the community, produced by the community, for the community.”

Other bystanders, such as filmmaker and actor Stuart Luth, says he found the protests interesting and necessary.

Luth is white but married to a light skinned Puerto Rican, screen writer and actress Viviana Rodríguez a.k.a. Viviana Leo her stage name.

Luth is currently in the process of producing a film titled “White Alligator”  which focuses on racism in the entertainment industry and his wife’s experience trying to break down those barriers.

He says it is important to highlight these issues and plans to continue coming to the protests each week.

“This is the first protest of this sort that I’ve seen as we’ve been trying to make this film,” Luth said. “In the Latino community [there is] a misrepresentation of race.”

“People [are] trying to create labels and put them in boxes.”

Luth, 32, grew up in New Jersey and now lives in the Upper West Side. The filmmaker recalled his wife feeling some of the same emotions the protestors described when seeing “Work It.”

“My wife was always too white to be Hispanic and too Hispanic to be white,” he said. “So much of our perceptions are created by the entertainment industry. Their stereotypes are holding us back.”

Luth adds that he did not expect to see so many young people, in particular young Latino men protesting.

“As an outsider that didn’t know what was going on there was a lot of strong masculine energy there,” said Luth. “They were given a chance to express a part of them that was dormant for a while. A chance to join the conversation and say this is not the way we are.”

Some of the younger protestors were sisters and Bronx natives, Ashley and Kimberly Villanueva, who vow to continue attending the protests and spreading the word in their high school and on social media.

“We are trying to prove them wrong,” said Kimberly Villanueva. “Just because [we are of this] race does not mean we do bad things.”

Kimberly Villanueva, 14, and her sister Ashely, 16, attend Bronx Academy of Letters High School. They said they were compelled to join the protest after learning about the show “Work It” from their father, who is a part of “Boricuas for a Positive Image.”

“My dad works in a company where there are carpenters, construction workers, people that are not selling drugs and making good money,” said Ashely Villanueva. “I am going to bring this up to my teacher, [since] I’m taking a discrimination class.”

Closing up the protest by singing the Puerto Rican national anthem was Connecticut resident Héctor López.

López, 69, says that even though he lives far away, it’s very important for him to support this cause.

“This is a movement for all Latinos,” said López. “We need to claim our rights.”

You can reach Alexandra Gratereaux at: or via Twitter: @GalexLatino

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