Members of the Puerto Rican Day Parade organization say they are planning on filing harassment charges against Newark Deputy Mayor Jaqueline Quiles.
The organization claims Quiles has engaged in an ongoing campaign of harassment against the parade, and that the latest attack against one of its members was the breaking point.
The group held a press conference this morning at parade offices at the Lombardi Center of Hope, where organization members called out Quiles for what they claim is her most vicious attack against one of their members.
Sonia Vera, cultural programs coordinator for the parade, says that she was verbally attacked and bullied by Quiles while visiting a food truck near her home in the North Ward on July 29.
According to Vera, she, along with her husband, ventured out to a nearby food truck for a late-night snack and to hand out some flyers for the upcoming Puerto Rican Day parade, when she saw Quiles walking out of a bar located at the corner of Broadway and Verona avenues. Quiles was accompanied by an aide from her office, who Vera said, was physically holding up the deputy mayor.
Vera said that the vendor, who was unaware that Quiles and Vera were already acquainted, introduced the two to each other.
“She didn’t even recognize me,” Vera said. “I told her it was me, and all hell broke loose.
According to Vera, Quiles began hurling curses in her direction.
“She called me an effin’ whore,” Vera said. “She said she was going to f*** me up and she said, ‘You don’t know what I can do to you.’ She used every curse in the book, and then she cursed me out in Spanish.”
Vera said that she told Quiles that she was shocked that she was speaking to her that way.
There were witnesses,” she said. “People were recording it. In all my 52 years, I’ve never been approached or bullied like this.
Vera said that she filed a complaint against Quiles several days later, but that it was dismissed because it was filled out incorrectly.
A message for Quiles was not returned as of 6 p.m. In addition, a message left for the mayor's spokesperson was not immediately returned.
Quiles formerly served as the president of the Puerto Rican Day parade and later went on to work in Perth Amboy for Mayor Wilda Diaz before coming back to Newark in 2015.
Nelson “Butchie” Nieves, president of the Puerto Rican Day parade, said that he blames Newark Mayor Ras Baraka for allowing Quiles’ abuse to continue. He also alleges that attempts have been made to shut down Vera's allegations.
“They’re actually trying to sweep this under the rug,” he said, alleging that Vera’s complaint was purposely filled out incorrectly.
“When the mayor brought her into the city, I asked how he could do this,” Nieves said. “This has been an ongoing war and the person who allows her to attack this organization is the mayor.”
According to Nieves, Quiles has been out to get his organization since 2015.
“She has attacked our organization, our program and our parade,” he said. “She’s just a horrible, horrible person. What she did to Sonia was terrible."
Vera said Baraka’s brother and chief of staff, Amiri, reached out on behalf of the mayor to discuss the situation.
“The mayor’s brother reached out and apologized on his behalf,” she said. “I’m humiliated and embarrassed.”
An August 14 press release put out by the Puerto Rican Day parade accused Quiles of intimidation against community members, embezzling funds and poaching sponsors for competing festivals, all while “using the power of her office to do so.”
Vera said that she has reached out to council members about the incident.
"No one is helping me," she said. "I'm running around in circles. I was bullied and no one is helping me. How is this possible for someone who has done so much for the community?"
“This is ugly,” Nieves said. “We’re definitely going to pursue this."