HAZLETON — It is a story that has made national news.
Victor Perez, head of the Dominican House in Hazleton, asked to have the flag of the Dominican Republic flown from outside city hall in commemoration of the Dominican Independence Day on February 27.
The mayor refused, citing a state law. That refusal created controversy.
“I would love to see my flag flying in this city, but personally I think we have more issues, more important issues, like drugs in this town, like gangs,” said Dominican and Hazleton resident Niruka de la Rosa.
Friday afternoon, inside a restaurant in downtown Hazleton, city residents, most of them from the Dominican Republic, gathered to speak out alongside the city’s police chief.
They said they understand and accept the mayor’s decision.
They are calling for unity and an end to the controversy.
“We are not against the flying of the Dominican flag in City Hall, but it if the law that dosn’t permit it so if the law dosn’t permit it, it’s our respectful action to obey the law of the United States, which is the country that we live in and this message that we are sending to our community is a message of division,” said Jose Rodriguez.
“Hazleton is a beautiful town to live when you are friends with everybody when you respect everybody, and I understand we have to respect each other. We have to get united because that is the most beautiful gift that God give to us. Love each other,” urged Olga Lantigua of Hazleton.
Some said Victor Perez is creating a divide in Hazleton and putting their community in a negative light.
They worry about increasing tension between Latinos and non-Latinos in the city.
“As a Dominican, which I am, by birth, U. S. Citizen, Mr. Perez does not represent me. Or the Dominican Republic, the Latinio community here, the Dominican community. He does not represent us here,” said Anna Arias of Hazleton.
The city’s police chief said it is obvious there is a divide in the city, but he said things have been getting much better in the past few years. Something like this controversy stops that progress.
“No one here was trying to create this division or cause this stink or file any sort of lawuit because we’re all trying to work together to better the community,” said Chief Frank DeAndrea.