Monday, December 20, 2010

Police Violence at the Universidad de Puerto Rico Strike

The strike continued today at the University of Puerto Rico. At the Facultad de Ciencias Naturales on the Rio Piedras campus, heavily armed police clashed with students protesting the new $800 tuition hike. Protesters marched through the building clapping and chanting to try to enforce the strike -- according to some news reports, they also used smoke bombs to force those inside to evacuate. At this point, the riot cops, which had been standing more or less on the sidelines, stepped in to shut down the protest. Police attacked indiscriminately with batons and tear gas, by the end of the day arresting at least twenty protesters and beating some as they lay on the ground. One of the arrestees, Germaine Ramia, had her left shoulder dislocated by a police blow. Despite the heavy police presence, protesters fought back, throwing rocks at the police, apparently popping the tires of a police car and, if we choose to believe the official police statement, injuring eight officers.

The arrested students were taken to the police station Hato Rey Oeste. At around 8:30 pm, about two hundred students and sympathizers arrived to protest in solidarity with those arrested. In part, they were responding to reports that they had received via text message stating that the police were beating them inside the jail. Again, riot police violently attacked the protesters outside. As of about 9:15 pm, police armed with long-range weaponry and machine-guns have cleared the street in front of the station, keeping a close watch on the protesters.

Like many universities in Latin America, the UPR is considered autonomous, which makes it illegal for the police to enter. Last week, however, the police invaded and occupied numerous UPR campuses, including Rio Piedras, Humacao, Bayamon, Cayey, and Carolina, for the first time in about thirty years. Furthermore, protests and demonstrations have been prohibited on university grounds. In this video from last week, riot cops at the Rio Piedras campus read what is essentially an expulsion order as they push students out: "You may not protest on school grounds: it is illegal" (No pueden manifestarse dentro de los predios: es ilegal").

Last week, a letter signed by 74 Puerto Rican professors was sent to Attorney General Eric Holder, condemning the police occupation:
As Puerto Rican scholars teaching in the United States we have decided to write to you in order to express our deep concern with regard to recent developments at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR). For the past months, the University has experienced a continuing conflict that began last semester with a call for a strike by the students in response to an increase in academic tuition and related to fears about the future of public higher education on the island. Unfortunately, university administrators, professors, and students have not been able to negotiate a satisfactory agreement. The whole process has recently culminated in the intervention of Governor Luis Fortuño and the deployment of a massive police presence on the main university campus at Río Piedras and on other campuses in the system, including a private security contractor and fully armed SWAT units.

On December 13, Chancellor Ana R. Guadalupe banned all meetings, festivals, manifestations, and all other so-called large activities on the Río Piedras campus for a period of thirty days. In our view, this represents a clear breach of fundamental constitutional rights. The justifications given by the Chancellor are that this measure is required in order to keep the campus open and to return it to normal operations. Furthermore, professors and workers are being asked (under the threat of punishment) to continue working despite the intense volatility caused by the police presence on campus.

We remain very concerned that such use of force may in fact increase the potential for violence and continued tension, especially if the guarantees of freedom of speech, association, and assembly have been revoked. Both the United States Constitution and the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico guarantee these rights. Moreover, this week the Supreme Court of Puerto Rico (which, without the opportunity for serious public debate, was recently restructured by the government of Luis Fortuño in order to ensure a clear majority of judges in his favor) declared, in a disturbing resolution, that strikes will be prohibited at all UPR campuses effective immediately.
It appears they were right. The strike continues tomorrow.

(much of this report is culled from the minute-by-minute updates from el nuevo dia and primera hora)


  1. One can smell the stench of Amerikkkan imperialism it is sickening. The influence Amerikkka has on Puerto Rico is grotesque to say the least. This is the result of being so dependent on an abusive state. Being the common wealth of such a repulsive repressive, oppressive state is no different than an individual remaining in a physically abusive relationship. Looking at the country of Norway which is not much bigger than the island of Puerto Rico I can not help but wonder why we as a people have relinquished our independence to fear. To fear that was clearly and cleverly placed by imperialist Amerikkka. Norway has free education as well as free health care. Why not model our island after a strong independent country such as Norway opposed to the brutal fascism of Amerikkka. There is just no excuse for such a show of power except as to tell the people they are not in control, the government is. Governments are supposed to be for the people, especially for our young people. I think it is past due time for independence in Puerto Rico. The influence of Amerikkka needs to be extinguished immediately. Hasta La Victoria Siempre!!!

  2. Policias hijo se su madre. Soy estudiante en la universidad de nueva york y esto esta malo, puneta dejenlos estudiantes en paz. Ustedes los policias son los primeros que los van a votar se van a quedar sin empleo. Ustedes son los primeros que el gobierno los va a cojer de pendejo. Aca en Estados Unidos estan despidiendo los policias porque no hay dinero. Aca le estan quitando las cosas a uno para darselas a otro. Aca en los Estados Unidos los puertoriquenos no tenemos nada aqui es salvese quien pueda y tambien somos dscriminados por si no lo sabias. Vamos a ver cuando ustedes los policias pierdan el empleo. Nos estan cojiendo a todos de pendejos, y los mas lindo que se ve la misma sangre matandose uno con el otro. En que mundo vamos a parar. Las cosas estan muy malas necesitamos estar unidos en la union es que esta la fuerza.

  3. Taking our freedom of speech is inhumane we have the right to fight for something that not right period !!! just like in Puerto Rico everywhere even Greece police has gotten over the limit if police in PR was aggressive and abusive why not stop the killers and mass murderers in Santa Isabel they are afraid of gangs but not innocent people makes no sense its not safe anywhere anymore