HAZELTON — Members of the city’s Dominican community united Friday to condemn Victor Perez, saying he stood alone in his fight to have the flag of his and their homeland flown at city hall.
Perez, president of the Dominican House, claimed discrimination when Mayor Joseph Yanuzzi denied his request to fly the Dominican Republic’s flag on Thursday to commemorate the country’s independence. Yannuzzi cited state law in his denial and admitted he was wrong two years ago when he permitted the Irish flag to fly on St. Patrick’s Day.
“Mr. Perez is looking for an issue. There is no issue,” Yannuzzi said. He welcomed the community’s support, adding, “It took a lot for them to stand up and say they support my decision.”
To a person, the nine people who gathered for an afternoon press conference at The Second Base restaurant on West Broad Street distanced themselves from Perez.
Jose R. Rodriguez worried that Perez would divide the Hispanic community as it moved forward from the city’s 2006 “Illegal Immigration Relief Act Ordinance” that was shot down in federal court.
“He represents himself. It’s his opinion. It’s his institution that has members that follow this idea. He doesn’t represent me. He definitely doesn’t represent the Hispanic community,” Rodriguez said.
Eugenio Sosa, executive director of the Hazleton Integration Project Inc., found nothing positive in what Perez was doing.
“Now, as Jose say, there is so many negative impacts in this. Impact the business, impact our children and impact our personal relation with other because they going to start to judge and that’s very bad. Because the reputation that we have in the past it doesn’t have now,” Sosa said.
Olga Lantigua, a city resident for 12 years, took issue with Perez’s title and position with the Dominican House.
“No, he’ s not my leader. He’s not my leader. I don’t see nothing good that he can do in Hazleton,” Lantigua said. “I am Dominican, but I never been in the Dominican House.”
Seated among the group, Hazleton Police Chief Frank DeAndrea explained his presence.
“What I’m here to provide and express is the need for Hazleton to come together as one community. We police the entire city,” he said. “And there is good and there is bad in everything. And if I can figure out a way collectively to bring the good of two separate parts of the city together, there is no doubt in my mind that all of the good will police out the bad together.”
Anna Arias called for Perez to leave Hazleton and stop stirring up trouble.
“We don’t need you,” she said. “We do not need this situation. We need to work united as I have seen that, after 2006 we have grown together. We have had unity after that, and this man is coming to stir the whole negative thing again. We do not need it. We do not need it.”
When contacted about the press conference Perez was quick to question the motives of the participants.
“They are just people that are defending the interests of this city not the interests of the Hispanic community.”
Perez predicted that they will be rejected by the community because they are being used by the mayor to divide the city.
“They are not working with the Hispanic community as we are doing,” he said.
The next step is to meet with the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice to correct the wrong that has been done, Perez said.
“It is a discrimination,” he said. “The mayor said it was a mistake, but it was not a mistake.”