WEST NEW YORK --"Roque...amigo, el pueblo esta contigo" ("Roque, our friend, your people are with you") was the constant chant and the words written on the t-shirts worn by the nearly 100 residents who stood outside of West New York Town Hall in support of Mayor Felix Roque and his son Joseph during a candlelight vigil Friday evening.
Exactly one week after father and son were arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for the alleged hacking into Recall Roque, the website of the mayor's political opposition, the mayor addressed the public for the first time.
"I am an honest man," he said in Spanish, perched above the crowd on the top of the Town Hall steps. "Never during this illegal infraction have I broken the law, and I will always work for my people."
After their arraignment in Newark, the Federal District judge determined that each could face up to 11 years in prison and $600,000 in fines if convicted of the criminal charges. Their travel has been limited to New Jersey and New York, their internet and phone use was restricted, and they were released on a $100,000 bail bond pending their preliminary hearing scheduled for June 4.
"It is this country that gave me my opportunity," Roque continued in Spanish as his son stood behind him, "Not only to be a doctor, but to be in the military, and I tell you that for 38 years I've served this country as a colonel. I made a promise, and my promise is to you: I've heard what you've said, you've put me in this position, I will serve you, and I am going to stay here."
Roque's two sisters, Hilda (also a doctor) and Ida, stood by in support, and Deputy Mayor Silvio Acosta, Commissioners Fior D'Aliza Frias and Ruben Vargas, and several town workers also attended the vigil.
"We are keeping strong as a family and we're also trying to help the community," Hilda Roque said after her brother's speech. "The truth will come out. I think this will make him stronger, and I think this is an avenue for him to show the people that he's here to help them."
"Justice will prevail," Ida Roque said. "We're living in a democracy. It's an obstacle, but it will demonstrate his strength as a leader." -- Gennarose Pope