Photo account of the demonstration and attack by riot police during the shut down of the administrative building at the University Plaza of the Rio Piedras campus of the University of Puerto Rico in the morning of January 13th, 2011.
UPR Students Clash with Riot Police at University Plaza
by CMI-Puerto Rico Friday, Jan. 14, 2011 at 5:38 PM
Spanish source with photos: http://pr.indymedia.org/news/2011/01/46923.php
Translator's note: For those who haven't followed, this is the next chapter in a nine-month-long struggle at the University of Puerto Rico. Since the first 60-day long strike last April, students have used an immense variety of tactics with a range of goals and radical visions just as varied. At this point, dialogue has become less and less of an option and both the students and the police have become more direct and militant in their approach. Whether or not anarchists and radicals would agree with their above-ground pleas for dialogue, their consistency and success at shutting down the university over and over and over (almost becoming a habit) should be inspiring.
The rumor about a possible opening of the enrollment process made its rounds among students since last Tuesday the 11th, the day that the Rio Piedras campus reinstated its strike against the $800 fee. In spite of the ambiguous statements made by the university administration to begin the enrollment process on January 13th, the students decided to mobilize the protest towards the University Plaza, where most campus administrative offices are located.
The activity began around 7am with a strategic sit-in at the main staircase of the building. Also, some smaller groups dispersed to block the elevator doors and emergency exits. Students and workers that wanted to enter University Plaza were greeted with dialogue and invited to sympathize with the cause by not entering the building.
Contrary to past demonstrations at the Plaza, the events lacked any form of dialogue on behalf of the security officials with students and observers. In fact, PR Indymedia reporters stumbled on Capitol Security guards that participated in the unforgettable violent events of the last 48 hour student strike. When photojournalists got close to take pictures, they quickly gave their backs to the camera. In the article images, you can see one of the guards who had a wrapped hand over what looked like a brass knuckle.
While these isolated events occurred, the private security together with the state police evacuated the employees and students from the building that had come in before the demonstration. After evacuating restaurant employees and the sit-in was coming to a close, the students decided to regroup with the rest of the contingent in the main room. Upon exit, the security closed the access gate. Employees received notices to stay within the area of the Tower and to await instructions.
Following evacuation, Capitol security guards began to move around the back of the building. Facing this possibility of attack, students moved to block the entrance of the emergency stairs in the back. At 10am, the agreed time for students to end the sit-in, the organizers were trying to figure out a safe way to exit the building. Even then, the Tactical Operations unit, better known as the riot police, began to come in through the back emergency exit.
The students regrouped anticipating a violent attack. In a matter of seconds, the police began advancing down the stairs to attack the students. Students from the security committee made a human barrier to resist peacefully and the riot police began pushing on the students as the students pushed back. They began shooting tear gas to disperse and some students threw the canisters back.
Following their military dispersal, an official with a megaphone announced that those who wished to enroll for the semester could feel free to enter the building. The students exited the Plaza and formed a picket line blocking vehicle access to the Ponce de Leon Ave.
Some photos from article:
Private security guard with brass knuckle: http://puertorico.media.indypgh.org/uploads/2011/01/5.jpgl4poau.jpg
Riot police attack 1: http://puertorico.media.indypgh.org/uploads/2011/01/12.jpgzxywos.jpg
Riot police attack 2 (headband says "UPR WITHOUT POLICE"):
Tear gas (sign says "Your steroid excess limits your reasoning"):
Picket line after sit-in:
For those who don't know the story behind this, or why it began, I've been sending articles to OccupyCA and they've kept a good log of English articles since April, so you should visit: http://occupyca.wordpress.com/category/locale/global/puerto-rico/ for lots of info.
Otherwise, the PR indymedia site (indymediapr.org) and the Desde Adentro blog (rojogallito.wordpress.com) both have good news, videos and images related to this struggle and all coming from the students themselves as opposed to mainstream media.