NEW JERSEY (PIX11) — The excitement was short-lived for Sandralis Rivera and her daughter, who showed up at Union City High School to find the doors locked and the Hispanic Heritage Month celebration canceled.
“We came here in our Hispanic heritage stuff. We were excited,” said Rivera.
It was expected to draw big crowds because Broadway and movie powerhouse Lin Manuel Miranda was slated to appear. The annual event hosted by New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez would have been his first public appearance since he was indicted for bribery. The show did not go on.
“It’s a community event that a lot of Hispanics look forward to, so it’s unfortunate that his personal issues got in the way of this event happening,” said Unique Bacote.
Menendez and his wife, Nadine Arslanian Menendez, were charged Friday with accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes. He is accused of selling secret intel to the authoritarian government of Egypt and trying to block the criminal prosecution of a friend.
The 39-page indictment sparked calls for him to step down from both Republicans and Democrats, including former New Jersey Governor and Republican Presidential candidate Chris Christie and Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, who disagreed that Menendez, who is of Cuban descent is being targeted because he is Latino.
“As a Latina, there are absolutely ways that there is systemic bias, but I think what I think is in the indictment, and I think it’s in the Best interest to maintain the integrity of the seat,” said Ocasio-Cortez during a television interview.
“There’s no way that any public official has any legal or plausible or ethical explanation for having $500,000 in cash stuffed in jackets and envelopes throughout their home, gold bars that have the DNA of someone who you were attempting to fix the system for,” said Christie when he was asked.
The embattled Senator has been accused of using his political power in exchange for money, gifts and campaign contributions in the past. Back in 2017, a judge dismissed a bribery case against him after a jury deadlocked. Following the latest indictment, Senator Menendez issued a statement that read in part:
“The facts are not as presented. Prosecutors did that the last time and look at what a trial demonstrates.”
But the court of public opinion is already in session.
“Anybody that comes into the community to just take and lie and be deceitful, we are not supporters of that at all,” said Sandralis Rivera.
It is not clear what the new date for the Hispanic Heritage Month celebration will be.