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.)