Wednesday, May 04, 2011

ACLU: Puerto Rico has pattern of police brutality

Tue May 3, 2011 Associated Press

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – A celebrity-enhanced ACLU delegation criticized
Puerto Rico's government Tuesday for using police to keep the island's
main university system open during a strike over a new fee, with members
saying they found clear evidence in which officers abused students during
the protests.

The delegation, which included Oscar-nominated actress Rosie Perez and
former major league baseball player Carlos Delgado, said the initial
findings of a fact-finding mission found a pattern of excessive police
force over the past 18 months involving students, union leaders and

Their final report, which will be presented to the U.S. Justice
Department, is expected by September.

Perez said at a news conference that she was overwhelmed by the testimony
of students who said they were brutalized or sexually harassed and groped
by police during a series of violent clashes over the $800 fee and budget

"I was really appalled as to how many of the adults treated many of the
young people whether the young people were right or wrong," Perez said.
"Yes, there were some bad apples, there were many bad apples in the bunch,
but even they have certain rights."

Puerto Rico last year appointed an independent monitor for its police
department and announced additional training in April for all officers in
response to repeated allegations of brutality and misconduct.

Puerto Rico's Secretary of State Kenneth McClintock, who met with the ACLU
delegation along with other island officials, faulted the delegates for
announcing their preliminary findings so quickly, saying it suggested they
had reached their conclusions before they had started. He said he urged
them to expand their focus to include the rights of students and teachers
who wanted to go to classes despite the months of protests at island

"The rights of those thousands of students should be equally entitled to
ACLU interest and protection as the rights of the hundreds who
participated in the demonstrations," he said.

ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said in response that the group
agrees that students have a right to attend classes but that local
authorities went too far in using police to keep the university open.

"The university cannot be kept open at any cost," he said.

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