Solidarity with the student strikers
Students at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), now in their fourth week of a strike and occupation at the Río Pedras campus in San Juan, are appealing for solidarity after university administrators and the government escalated their repressive acts. On May 14, riot police surrounded the main UPR campus, blocking all access.
According to one report, the father of a striking student who was bringing food and water was beaten and then arrested. The same day, José Pérez, a disabled graduate student and well-known about the strikers, was badly beaten, dragged on the floor and arrested for "aggression" when he attempted to reenter the campus after leaving briefly. Professors and fellow students who tried to come to his aid were doused with pepper spray, according to a report.
The strike and occupation began in mid-April and was originally planned for two days, but it escalated after UPR President José Ramón de la Torre, Río Piedras' campus rector Ana Guadalupe Quiñones and the UPR Board of Trustees refused to meet with representatives of the students. The action spread in the following weeks--by mid-May all but one of the UPR campuses was on strike.
The protests are against a series of measures planned by university administrators which are supposed to close a $100 million budget gap--at the expense of students, faculty and staff. Students have taken the lead in this phase of the fight, but they have the supporter of unions for faculty and campus workers.
Here, we publish a statement from the Humanities Action Committee calling for international support for the strike.
YESTERDAY, ON May 13, the students of the Río Piedras campus of the University of Puerto Rico ratified the 22-day strike with a clear majority of votes in favor at a General Assembly that was proposed and organized by the institution's own administration.
Today, on May 14, that same administration, backed with full government support, intensified and reinforced their repressive schemes against the student movement, stepping over our constitutional right to protest.
We condemn Rector Ana Guadalupe's decision to activate the police forces against us, and we reiterate yesterday's vote demanding her resignation, as well as of President José Ramón De la Torre. Since 4 a.m., there has been a heavy police presence around the campus; different police units have been brought to guard all possible entrances and to restrict access of students and those in solidarity.
We wish to publicly alert the national and international media that up until now, they have prohibited not only the entrance of civilians, but also and more alarming, the entry of food donations and supplies needed by the hundreds of students who are currently occupying the campus. The students who reside on campus are being forced to move out and are being threatened with the non-renewal of housing contracts. We also expect water and electricity on campus to be cut off by 1 p.m.
We exhort all students, professors, workers and civilians--every member of every community--to surround the university gates as they have done themselves. We exhort everybody's presence here today; we need everyone's solidarity and support if we are to endure this struggle. We want to let the administration know that their attempts to intimidate have been not only repressive, but exaggerated and unnecessary. We will not allow the democracy that the university administration claims to practice to be arbitrary and partial.
Those who participated in the General Student Assembly yesterday experienced a real democratic process in action. The assembly is sovereign, and in the assembly, we voted to continue the strike. We are here to defend the right of all Puerto Rican students to a public education, and here we will remain until the administration decides to cooperate and negotiate.
We need everyone's solidarity and support. Ten out of the eleven campuses that make up the UPR system have declared themselves on strike. All are participating in the same struggle--the same struggle being fought all over the world.
United we stand, divided we fall.
Humanities Action Committee, University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus