Puerto Rico: Police Occupies the University of Puerto Rico

This post is part of our special coverage Puerto Rico Student Protests 2010/11.

For the first time since 1981 the Puerto Rico Police has entered the main campus of the University of Puerto Rico with the Superintendent stating that they “are here to guarantee the rights of those willing to go to class.” This happened just hours after a two day stoppage by students had concluded. Furthermore, it was announced that the police presence will be indefinite [es].


The Police at one of the entrances of the Río Piedras campus. Photo by Ricardo Alcaraz of Diálogo. Republished under a CC License.*

Professor and blogger Érika Fontánez Torres from Poder, Espacio y Ambiente [es] expressed her concern with the arrival of the police into campus:

Repudiamos y protestamos enfática y totalmente, la ocupación de la Universidad de Puerto Rico por la Policía. ¿Cuánto más hará esta administración para arrebatarnos y destruir nuestra Universidad?. Basta ya.

We repudiate and protest emphatically and totally, the occupation of the University of Puerto Rico by the Police. What else will this administration do to take away and destroy our University? Enough.

The online publication 80grados [es] published a communiqué from the Law Students Action Committee, which calls for students not to enter the campus until the police comes out:

Hoy, debemos negarnos a entrar al Recinto de Río Piedras, y a todos los demás Recintos del Sistema de la UPR hasta tanto se retire la Policía de Puerto Rico de sus inmediaciones. De lo contrario, habremos condonado la muerte de nuestra Política de No Confrontación y de nuestra autonomía universitaria. No esperemos la muerte de una nueva Antonia Martínez, abatida a tiros por los fuerzas del Estado para defender nuestra Institución.

Today, we must refuse to enter the Río Piedras campus, and all other campuses of the University of Puerto Rico’s system, until the Police of Puerto Rico retires from the premises. Otherwise we will have condoned the death of our Non-Confrontation Policy and of our university’s autonomy. We must not wait until the death of a new Antonia Martínez, killed by gunfire by the forces of the State to defend our Institution

Antonia Martínez was a 21 year old student killed during a riot police intervention in a student protest in Río Piedras in 1970.

Despite the claims and concerns of students and professors, the police has remained on campus. Journalist Rafael Lenín Pérez [es] has reported on Twitter:

Reportan estudiantes que están cogiendo clases en RP que policías estatales son la orden en los pasillos cerca de salones

Students taking classes in Río Piedras report that state policemen are prevalent in the halls close to classrooms

Others inside the campus have expressed frustration with the police presence. Twitter user Astrid Cruz explains how she feels about walking inside the campus:

I SO love walking around campus having univ guard + private guards + police patrols watching my every move. Police state, anyone? #LuchaUPR

In the meantime, an assembly of professors urged both sides to declare a truce for the well being of the university. The digital publication 80grados [es] published their declaration:

La Universidad de Puerto Rico no puede ser forzada a escoger entre la intransigencia de la administración o la intransigencia de los estudiantes.

The University of Puerto Rico can not be forced to choose between the administration’s instransigence or the students’ intransigence.

Se exhorta al Presidente y a la Junta de Síndicos que retire inmediatamente la Policía de la Universidad y a los estudiantes que pospongan indefinidamente su voto de huelga. Se exhorta, asimismo, al Presidente y a la Junta de Síndicos que se reúnan cuanto antes con los representantes del estudiantado y se inicie de inmediato un proceso de diálogo con la intención expresa de forjar acuerdos basados en el sacrificio mutuo, en la capacidad de cada cual de ceder, de escuchar al otro y de compartir responsabilidades. Lo que está en juego es nada menos que la sobrevivencia de la Universidad.

We urge the President and the Board of Trustees to retire the Police from the University immediately, and to the students to indefinitely postpone their strike vote. We, also, urge the President and the Board of Trustees to get together as soon as possible with the students’ representatives and a process of dialog is initiated immediately with the express intention to forge agreements based on mutual sacrifice, in the capacity that each one can compromise, listen to the other side and share responsibilities. What is at stake here is nothing less than the survival of our University

The students of the main campus voted in an assembly to start a strike tomorrow, December 14, unless a special tuition fee of $800 –which will start to be charged in January– is eliminated. Yesterday, thousands marched [es] from the Legislature to the Governor's Mansion in Old San Juan (the colonial sector of the capital city)  in protest against the imposition of this fee.

Protest against tuition fee. Photo Melissa Ortega from blog Desde Adentro. Republished un CC License.*

The President of The University of Puerto Rico, José Ramón de la Torres, has announced a meeting for today with representatives of the student councils [es]. Whether cooler heads will prevail before the scheduled strike of December 14 remains to be seen.

*Photo of Police officers by Ricardo Alcaraz of Diálogo republished under CC License NC-ND 3.0.
*Photo of protest by Melissa Ortega of Desde Adentro republished under CC License NC-ND 3.0.

This post is part of our special coverage Puerto Rico Student Protests 2010/11.


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