When Hector Lopez heard that police had evicted the Wall Street occupiers, the 71-year-old Vietnam veteran said he immediately travelled from Hartford, Conn., to New York City.
"Supposedly, we live in a democracy and people have the right to express themselves," Lopez said Tuesday at what was left of Occupy Wall Street's two-month-old makeshift encampment at Zuccotti Park in lower Manhattan. "But I can see that times have changed."
Early Tuesday, police dismantled the camp, which the anti-corporate protesters dubbed Liberty Plaza. Scores were arrested, including City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez.
Hundreds of police officers had descended on the park, evicting protesters and arresting those in their way. The police gave the occupiers 15 minutes to gather their belongings and get out. The Occupy Wall Street movement, which has branched out to cities around the world, encountered its most critical moment.
Lopez carried a huge flag from his native Puerto Rico.
"At my age, I should be resting and enjoying my retirement," said Lopez, a native of the small town of Isabela who moved to the United States with his parents when he was a child. "I served the United States as a soldier. I worked all my life. And yet, I can barely survive. The Wall Street corporations must understand that the current system promotes inequality. They should correct it."
As he was being interviewed, Lopez stopped to sing "La Borinqueña," considered the Puerto Rican national anthem.
His rendition grabbed the attention of some protesters, who had started to trickle back to Zuccotti Park. Some cops asked Lopez to stop singing. He ignored them.
He sang his version of "La Borinqueña," the original version of the 1868 revolutionary song attributed to poet Lola Rodriguez Tio. The song's name comes from Borinquen, the name given to Puerto Rico by its early inhabitants, the Taino indians. Lopez was surrounded by other OWS supporters.
"What else can I give these people but an anthem that celebrates liberty?" he said. "We Puerto Ricans are Latin Americans but we are subjects, a colony of the United States. And today, the United States is itself a colony of Wall Street."
At dawn Tuesday, the sky over New York City was grey and loaded with dark clouds. It remained the same during the day, with sporadic drizzles. Supporters of the Occupy movements descended on the park despite the weather.
As Lopez sang his anthem, groups of cops in riot gear stood around. The sidewalk was littered with broken banners, abandoned blankets and shoes, the silent witnesses of a early-morning eviction in the heart of corporate America.