October 4, 2016 at 11:27 pm EST | by Michael K. Lavers
Ambassador urges Dominican officials to investigate park arrests

Wally Brewster, Dominican Republic, gay news, Washington Blade

U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic James “Wally” Brewster has urged Dominican officials to investigate the arrest of more than two dozen people at a Santo Domingo park that is a popular gathering place for the Dominican capital’s LGBT community. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Gay U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic James “Wally” Brewster has called for an investigation into the arrest of young people who were gathered in a park in the country’s capital that is popular with LGBT Dominicans.

Acento, an online Dominican newspaper, reported officers with the Dominican National Police placed several young people who were in Parque Duarte in Santo Domingo’s Colonial Zone on Sunday night into the back of a truck.

A YouTube video shows the truck driving away from the park.

A woman who is talking in the clip said the young people were arrested “for no reason.” She also said police officers told onlookers, “Nobody has to give you an explanation about what is happening.”

Cristian Ramírez, a Dominican LGBT rights activist, told the Washington Blade that more than 25 people were arrested “without explanation.” Rosanna Marzan, director of Diversidad Dominicana, an LGBT advocacy group, said most of those who were taken into custody were young men who were “very obviously” gay or black.

“It is a situation that is very unfortunate,” she said.

Yimbert Feliz, another Dominican LGBT rights activist, told the Blade from Santo Domingo that 15 people were arrested on Sunday.

Feliz said authorities released some of those who were taken into custody a few hours later after he and other activists pressured them. He told the Blade that others paid a “bribe” of roughly $11.

“The National Police has not said what the motive or reason was,” said Feliz. “Everything points to the fact that they were gay. It’s that simple.”

Brewster told the Blade the U.S. Embassy has “been working” with the National Police, the Dominican tourist police known by the Spanish acronym CESTUR and the offices of Dominican Attorney General Jean Alain Rodríguez and Santo Domingo Mayor David Collado to investigate the circumstances that led to the arrests.

“We will push for action against anyone public or private who violated the human rights of any individuals who were targeted for no cause,” said Brewster. “We will expect the government of the Dominican Republic to take immediate actions against those responsible.”

Ramírez told the Blade he has heard the arrests are part of an effort to “remove gays from the area” that will continue through the end of the year. He said authorities have “said nothing.”

The National Police, CESTUR and Collado’s office have not returned the Blade’s request for comment.

Hundreds attended vigil in park for Pulse victims

Parque Duarte remains a de facto LGBT community center. Hundreds of LGBT people gather in the park on Friday and Saturday nights.

Nicolás de Jesús López Rodríguez, the former cardinal of the Archdiocese of Santo Domingo who has repeatedly used anti-gay slurs to describe Brewster, in 2010 said “homosexuals, prostitutes and drug users have invaded” the park that is across the street from a church. Brewster and his husband, Bob Satawake, were among the hundreds of people who attended a candlelight vigil in Parque Duarte that paid tribute to the victims of the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, Fla.

Parque Duarte, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, gay news, Washington Blade

Parque Duarte in Santo Domingo’s Colonial City remains a de facto community center for the Dominican LGBT community. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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