On this day March 21, 1937

18 people and a 7-yr-old girl in Ponce, Puerto Rico are gunned down by a police squad acting under orders of US-appointed PR Governor, Blanton C. Winship.

blanton_winship

Blanton Winship

The Ponce Massacre is a violent chapter in the history of Puerto Rico. On March 21, 1937 (Palm Sunday) a march was organized in the southern city of Ponce, Puerto Rico by the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party.

The march, organized to commemorate the end of Slavery in 1873, was also formed to protest the incarceration of nationalist leader Pedro Albizu Campos, as well as to demand Puerto Rico’s independence from the United States.

Days before, the march organizers applied for and received permits for a peaceful protest with the municipality of Ponce, under Jose Tormos Diego.

Upon learning of the protests, however, the colonial governor of Puerto Rico at the time, General Blanton Winship, demanded the immediate withdrawal of the permits. They were withdrawn a short time before the protest was scheduled to begin.

Colonel Orbeta went to Ponce and concentrated police from across the island, among which he included all the machine gunners. For many days, the government had planned to restrict the activities of the nationalists and their leader, Pedro Albizu Campos.

Chief of Police Guillermo Soldevilla, with 14 policemen, placed himself in front of the marchers. Chief Perez Segarra and Sgt. Rafael Molina, commanding 9 men who were armed with Thompson submachine guns and tear gas bombs, stood in the back. Chief of Police Antonio Bernardi, heading 11 policemen armed with machine guns, stood in the east; and another group of 12 police, armed with rifles, was placed in the west.

As “La Borinqueña”, (the national song) was being played, the demonstrators began to march. They were then fired upon for over 15 minutes by the police from their four positions. About 235 were wounded and nineteen were killed, and the dead included 17 men, one woman, and a seven-year-old girl. Some of the dead were demonstrators, while others were simply passers-by.

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