This is a clip from an upcoming documentary about the student struggle so far at the University of Puerto Rico. It covers the recent establishment of the $800 fee increases, the police brutality against demonstrators, Governor Fortuño’s plan for privatizing the public sector, and the subsequent ban on large gatherings at the university.
Archive for the ‘Puerto Rico’ Category
This friday, March 11th, has been announced as a day of solidarity with the student struggle at the University of Puerto Rico.
Friday, March 11 · 6:30pm – 9:00pm
Julia de Burgos’s Mosaic
106 St, Spanish Harlem
Friday, March 11, 4:30-7:00pm
24th/Mission BART Station Plaza in San Francisco
Why March 11th?
March 11, 1971 was one of the bloodiest single days in the history of the University of Puerto Rico. The main campus at Río Piedras was occupied by the Puerto Rico Police, unleashing violent confrontations that ended the lives of two police officers, including the then chief of the notorious Tactical Operations Unit, and one student. (more…)
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The Chancellor of the Río Piedras campus, part of the 11 campus University of Puerto Rico system, announced a moratorium on mass gatherings at Río Piedras on February 24th, due to what she believed was an illegal 24-hr strike held on the previous day. Chancellor Ana Guadalupe, in a letter to the students, announced that under her authority, under Article 2.19, a 30 day ban on mass gatherings and demonstrations would begin. This forced moratorium on protests comes in light of a series of acts of police brutality on protesters¹, a physical confrontation between an English professor and students, and student uprisings over the past few months against the $800 tuition increase.
On Monday, March 7th, students defied these orders and held a protest. Upon hearing that the Chancellor was holding a meeting with the department of Architecture, the demonstrators moved outside of it. Once there, students chanted at the Chancellor but were stopped from entering the meeting due to campus security. Guadalupe refused to acknowledge the students outside, so the demonstrators went around the building and held up signs through the window. Discovering the window unlocked, a few students climbed into the room and disrupted the meeting.
As Guadalupe left the meeting, students attempted to confront her, but were pushed back by police and campus security. Frustrated and provoked, demonstrators continued to confront the Chancellor, leading to a back and forth struggle with the campus security. Demonstrators tried to grab the Chancellor, tugged at her hair and sprayed water at her while she was surrounded by guards. Once she reached a campus security car, demonstrators stood in front and blocked her way. She continued to refuse speaking with protesters. The car’s windows were smashed before the Chancellor could leave the scene.
¹ Over the past few months peaceful student protests and civil disobedience actions have been repeatedly and brutally attacked by police, “the shock force”. See: the January 27th protest at the capitol [see photos: 1, 2]; the February 9th protest against the fee increase and police [see photos: 1, 2]; and the numerous acts of police brutality and repression during the student strike in December 2010 [see photos: 1].
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – José Ramón de la Torre, the president of the UPR, announced his resignation yesterday amidst student protests. (via StudentActivism)
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Student demonstrations are continuing to shake the University of Puerto Rico, in spite of the successful institution of a $800 fee increase. The first semester of the 2010-11 school year ended only just recently in late January. It was during the end of the first semester that hundreds of students held a sit-in and were all arrested. The second semester began on Monday this week with fresh new protests against the tuition increase and against the severe police repression students have been facing at demonstrations.
On Monday, Judge Rebecca de León Ríos, ruled that the suspension of a student leader and the university’s ban on mass demonstrations were illegal. Protests yesterday were reinforced by trade unionists and were met by riot police reportedly armed with lethal weapons. Yet, the police were overwhelmed by the number of people and retreated from the protestors. However, despite these victories several students were arrested Tuesday during further protests.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Though Tuesday’s march proceeded without notable conflict between UPR students and the Puerto Rican police, it precipitated an immediate response from university administrators and government officials, who acted in concert to provide police forces with greater jurisdiction in quelling campus unrest (1). By Wednesday afternoon, ten students had been arrested and removed from campus. The detained had allegedly disrupted classes while distributing flyers that contained information about the strike (2). All ten students were transported to the Hato Rey station but later released without charges.
A peaceful gathering in the University Plaza on Thursday morning culminated in a minor skirmish between police forces and student protestors. The students resisted the polices’ efforts to force them out of the building, but, after being shot with tear gas and pepper spray, the students receded into Ponce de Leon Avenue (3).
A few hours later, the students regrouped inside the campus. As police forces began gathering nearby, the students mounted a peaceful march across campus. The officers, following in close pursuit, attempted to inform the students that they were in violation of an active injunction against public demonstration on campus. As the police forces neared, an American war-veteran marching in solidarity with the strikers turned to slow the approach of the pursuing officers. He was quickly seized and taken into custody. Soon after, the officers again neared the students. They preceded to mount a charge, seizing six students and sending the rest scrambling out university gates. Once in the streets and off campus, the student demonstrators resumed a march. Meanwhile, the six detained students were transported to the Hato Rey station, facing charges that included obstruction of justice, use of force against a police officer, and illegal acquisition of police property. The judge presiding over the hearings found no cause for the arrests of Omar González, Camila Estrada, José Emilio Colón, Rafael Emanuelli, and Gamelyn Oduardo (who recently toured the UC system). All five were released late Thursday evening. Nelson Pagán Butler, however, still faces charges for allegedly assaulting an officer with a bottle of water (4).
Students regrouped Friday to discuss recent occurrences and to plan for further demonstrations, which are set to begin again on Monday. Though students attending the Río Piedras campus have already begun paying portions of the $800 ‘special fee,’ student leaders assure that the fight is not over and that the strike will continue (5).
(Special thanks to AWoL for the translation.)
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - Early reports from mainstream news sources (1, 2) suggest no serious clashes took place between students on strike and police. Strikers began early in the morning at the gates of the Rio Piedras, and by mid-day they began marching through campus. Strikers released smoke bombs in buildings to try and clear buildings of students. Reports indicate that windows at the student center were smashed as well. The governor is condemning the property destruction as violent and claims the student leaders have failed in their responsibility to repudiate violent tactics. The marchers left campus some time around 2pm, around the same time as the police “shock” force. More updates to come later.
PUERTO RICO – Students of the University of Puerto Rico have announced tomorrow, January 11th, as a day of strike against the $800 tuition increase.
(pardon my broken English – public education in here is not a priority…)
Since December the 14th, the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), the only public university of the Island, has been on strike against a $800 special fee they want to put us for this new semester. Since the strike began just weeks before the current semester was about to end, the support of students has not been as massive as the last Spring strike (who longed for 62 days).
Everyday we wake up with massive display of police inside the Campus … even on [December 20] there was a huge riot [which ended in] the [arrest] of 18 students and dozens of wounded.
Here’s 2 videos of the riot:
- and a short video of that day riot: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j51gmxO0K3Q
Now, January the 11th is the day that the UPR administration said that it will be renewing the classes of the semester who hasn’t ended … this day we are trying to get any type of international support since the Government has already said that they will not keep tolerating this strike. Therefore, we will be looking forward to maybe even worst violence that we have already lived in this strike already.
[Editor: Updates will be posted as they come.]
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – [BREAKING] 17 or more students were arrested, at least 2 hospitalized, and around 8 police injured on Monday, December 20th, in clashes related to the student strike at the University of Puerto Rico. Although still unclear, it appears students attempted to shutdown business as usual at the natural sciences building at the Río Piedras campus, but were instead met with a violent police response. According to one mainstream news report, police were seen bludgeoning students with nightsticks while they lay on the ground, and students were seen throwing stones at police.
[Update]: Reports are coming in that the arrested students were still being beaten once boarded onto police transport buses and while at the police detention center.
Video of arrests (warning, the video is loud):
For the past few weeks students have been in an uproar over a fee increase intended to begin in January. This is the same fee increase students fought to prevent last Spring, where demonstrators effectively shut down the 10 of 11 campus system for two months. Students held a 48 hour strike only two weeks ago, which ended in the police occupation of some UPR campuses (including: Río Piedras, Aguadilla, Humancao, Bayamon, Carolina, and Cayey). Students have attempted several creative actions and protests to raise awareness of the police sieges on their education and the ensuing brutality.
Some more updates from ReclaimUC.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Having achieved student control over the [University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras] campus during the early morning on December 7th, the second day of the strike flowed with relative calm. By then, students were not going to wait on the rumors about a potential eviction by police. To spice up the rumor, the police dispersed hundreds of fliers from their helicopter around 6:30 in the morning around the whole campus warning their intervention of the strike. This old military tactic was the beginning of the current siege on the campus.
As part of the coordinated repression, a leaflet was distributed in schools neighboring the UPR: Barbosa, Muñoz Rivera and Vilamayo. It contained a security “contingency plan” and was placed next to the teacher’s time punchers since they had to pass there before going to class. As you can see, the leaflet doesn’t have a signature or letterhead (see below). A university student on strike whose mother is a teacher at one of these schools made sure to copy and distribute the leaflet at the gates of the UPR.
The rest of the day was marked by events filled with strong emotions. At mid-morning, the student leader Giovanni Roberto offered a one-on-one conversation with some employees of the private security company. With this, he managed to get empathy from the young guards by identifying affinity between the working-class students and them as marginalized groups that the system attempts to pit against each other. Watch the video:
But the surprise of the day was the demonstration by the UPR High School students. Contrary to past events, the school remained open with some teachers unaffiliated with the APPU giving classes. Even then, the school cafeteria was closed due to the fact that it’s operated by the Worker Syndicate of the UPR, who have a policy of not crossing picket lines. At noon, a group of students asked for permission to go eat lunch outside and demonstrate in solidarity with the strike at the Education dept. gate. They were denied, but the students decided to demonstrate in front of the closed gate anyway. Watch the video:
The afternoon came and the barricades were taken down to put everything where it was before. Once the paths were cleared, the closing activity was a march through the main road of the campus until they reached the Tower. A group of students prepared a 70-foot-long banner that said “Venceremos Siempre” (loosely translated, “We’ll Always Win”) to be hung at the top of the historic building. Unfortunately, the rotunda steps were occupied by the Capitol Security riot squad blocking access for the action. That day, the university administration gave the campus tower away to Chicky Starr (Note for gringos: Chicky Starr is a famous PR wrestler known for his cocky antics. UPR students dubbed the private security guards the “Chicky Starr Squad” throughout the strike). Watch the video:
The group decided to hang the banner from the top of scaffolding in a nearby building. Afterwords, the students exited through the main gate in a victorious march.
But the story didn’t end there. It was after the effective two day shutdown by students, against the orders of the regent, that the administration played its card. At midnight, the state police came into the university campus effectively breaking with the “non-confrontation” policy and declaring a siege. As of now, their declared intentions are to remain in the campus to prevent the students from coming back to take control for the Tuesday strike. The police have already chosen the nightstick over dialogue.
The indignation of the university community did not wait passively. The Ponce de Leon Ave. was occupied for more than 24 hours in spite of the police presence in the campus. The activities that took place on Thursday Dec. 9th outside of the campus will be in our next report.
University High School gate demo:
Taking down barricades:
March through campus:
Exit through the main gate:
Ponce de León Occupation:
(Via indymedia Puerto Rico. Special thanks to Luis O. for the translation!)
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Students at the University of Puerto Rico are on strike again. Last spring, students shut down all but one campus in the UPR system for 2 months to fight the $800 fee increase.
Translator’s background note: Even though the UPR students have organized referendums, occupations, and demos against the $800 fee due January all throughout this fall, the administration is going forward with the fee. So students held an assembly and decided on a 48-hour strike for today. Attempts at repression have been at a high these past few weeks, with the university even taking down the campus’s security gates the day before the strike. This is a communique about today written from within the barricades.
It’s worth noting this was released at 8:00 am and much more has happened since, including an altercation at the gates where a student was detained. Also counter-demos have materialized with support from the PNP, the pro-statehood party. It’s likely a more comprehensive non-mainstream article will be released tomorrow.
Even though the administration insists that today is a normal class and work day at the University, since midnight, various incidents have occurred inside and outside the Rio Piedras campus and the University is under watch from members of the private company Capitol Security and by state police, being observed by a police helicopter that hovers the area.
At dawn, dozens of students and professors formed a picket line at the main entrance of the campus,while others remained within grounds.
At the same time, demonstrators built barricades, specifically at the main entrance at Ponce De Leon Ave. and another one between the Humanities dept. and the Facundo Bueso Annex. Early in the morning, members of Capitol Security, led by the supervisor Benjamin Rodriguez, attempted to dismantle the barricades. In their attempt, they were attacked by masked folks with wood beams and stones. Following the masked folks’ actions, the guards responded similarly and other private guards attempted to run away as fast as they could.
In the morning, an incident went down where close to twenty cops attacked a student with wood beams and that student is currently in the emergency room of a metro hospital. Various students recorded the event and took videos with personal cameras.
In addition, another incident happened where three private guards tried to go into Social Sciences to buy coffee, they claim, since they’ve worked for over 12 hours without a meal. After the students denied them entrance, there was a conversation between a member of the private security and various students. The chief for Capital Security assured them that they didn’t want problems and that police would be coming into the campus at any moment.
Meanwhile, José Colón Ríos, a Law student, noted that at 3:30 in the morning at the Education dept. gate, members of the private security took a student’s bicycle and threw it against the floor, and said something about a “bicycle for Christmas”. Following that, they deflated the tires. It was after that event that the supervisor for the youth at the private security intervened and said “not that”. The state police posted at the same gate observed the incident but didn’t intervene.
Colón Ríos expressed concerns that “it’s in incredible disarray, they have rocks, sticks, they’re super aggressive, making jokes and mocking the students and daring each other to see who wants to fight with the students.”
In an interview with Univision, the President of the Board of Trustees, Ygri Rivera claimed that the private security is part of the overall security plan for the institution.
“The confrontational climate was not created by us, our job is to take all the necessary measures to make sure that the students that want to study can do so”, Rivera insisted.
When questioned about the use of less-lethal weaponry on behalf of the private guards, Rivera pointed out that “it’s not true”. “ If they have used it, it’s because they have to defend themselves then”, she added.
On her part, the Dean sent out a memo last night calling on students to go to the Campus and assist a normal class day. Today in the morning, she sent out another memo where she said she would solicit an investigation over the incident with the student that is currently at Auxilio Mutuo Hospital following a confrontation in the morning. On the same incident, the President of the Board of Trustees said that “At this moment it will be investigated, just as the situation with the police will be, and of the damaged public property and vehicles. When I have a clear view I’ll be in a position to say if it is true or not”. Pictures from Radio Huelga (a student radio station) show a member of Capitol Security with a wooden stick in hand and in the other, what seems to be a knife.
A helicopter from police overflew the campus area for over two hours.
Up until now (8:23 AM), no student or professor has attempted to enter the campus to take classes. This is despite the fact the first courses for th day are offered at 7:00 am in some departments and sport teams practice in the campus area during early hours in the morning. On TV, morning reporters, after reporting the UPR situation, call on the students to stay at home because they consider it risky to come into campus.
Maintenance, beauty, upkeep employees and others came in through the security gate in Barbosa Ave. These have confirmed that they will sign a list as if they came in but they won’t cross the picket line. On their part, the staff association, through its President has expressed solidarity with the student strike.
(Special thanks to Luis O. for the translation!)
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Students at the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras campus held a sit-in today at the UPR Rector’s office to demand that she begin negotiations about the upcoming tuition increase. Earlier this year, students shut down nearly every campus of the 11 campus system for 2 months to prevent this tuition increase. The university intends to introduce the $800 fee increase in January. Next Wednesday, students will be holding an assembly to decide if they should go on strike again.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – On early Thursday morning, October 21st, there was no class at the Social Sciences and Education Departments of the University of Puerto Rico as a protest against the $800 fee increase that the administration [intends] to impose on students. The fee implicates an almost 100% increase of tuition costs and that around 11,000 students would have to stop attending studies due to a lack of money.
At the Education Department claims were also made against the cuts on courses offered and the rise in class capacity. According to the Action Committee for Education, “their plan is evident. They want to make the University smaller, sacrificing the public and social interest that is assumed of a State university and adopting the model of the university-business. They want to tear apart our university to eventually give it to the private sector.”
At the Social Sciences Dept., they put together community claims from the department through their first multi-sectional assembly celebrated on October 14th. At the assembly, staff employees denounced the administration’s [intentions] to change the Medical Plan to a private one, which will be more expensive and of lower quality. The professors reclaimed protection over their retirement and better conditions for contracted faculty.
It’s the first time that during a department strike, other annexes are also paralyzed outside of the main buildings. At the University Plaza, the Worker, Rehabilitation, and Cooperativism building(s) of Social Sciences were paralyzed. At the Sports Complex the PE classrooms gates remained closed since they belong to the Education Department. Aside from that, various forums, painting, documentary screening, and other artistic activities took place.
Original Article (with images) in Spanish available here. (Special thanks to Luis O. for the translation.)
More on UPR struggle:
- Oct. 19, 2010 – UPR Humanities Occupied
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – As of October 19th, the Humanities Faculty at the University of Puerto Rico, is occupied!
Before the warmth of the morning sun came, the students of the Humanities Action Committee (CAH) of the University of Puerto Rico – Rio Piedras campus, blocked passage to the classrooms of the Humanities Department with trash cans, desks, chairs and even plant pots to interrupt administrative labor and give way to humanistic and educational expression against the $800 fee that will be implemented on January 2011.
As the sun came up, and the physical occupation and paralyzation of the administration was guaranteed, some classes were given outside at Antonia Plaza, meanwhile the cultural activities of the day began with a web of strings, experimental music and an open microphone for students that wished to express themselves against the fee. The activities of the day included a dialogue about the fee’s impact and tactics for struggle, flute workshops, among other things. These activities would go on all day.
A giant web that extends across the Plaza calls attention to the students and demonstrators. From this web hang quotes from famous humanists with the purpose of continuing the student struggle for an accessible university of excellence and a better country, said the demonstrators.
For their part, the Fine Arts Department, which is also within Humanities, woke up barricaded with a sign that said “Closed due to bad administration”.
The occupation of the Humanities Department responds to an unanimous vote favoring the occupation at the Student’s Assembly celebrated this past October 14th.
Organizers of the CAH confirmed that this fee presents an imminent threat to the educational access for thousands of students of the university system and have begun delineating further actions that will revert this administrative policy.
Next Thursday the Social Sciences and Education departments will be occupied, after having both approved in the assembly.
Original Spanish article written by Gamelyn Oduardo with many great pictures here.
Translator’s note: Both the rhetoric and the organizing methods of the UPR students since April seem interesting provided the conversations, splits, and frustrations that have come up in California, NYC, etc. Many of their tools (assemblies, call for reforms, etc.) are tools that some people in the US would say are in direct contradiction with what radical ends are which is at the same time what the UPR students are doing on the ground: shutting down departments, opening space for free unmanaged expression, widening struggle. Does this mean that “liberal” forms of organizing actually can come out as radical gestures? Or is the UPR students’ form of organizing gonna be absorbed in the future as would be expected? Or is their context too different from the context in the US to answer such questions?
In any case, one point I’d like to make is that UPR students are not homogeneous in their stance, and there are many different approaches and stances, and I’d imagine, disagreements that have come up among their mostly successful occupations.
(Special thanks to Luis O. for the submission).