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!)