[News] Takeover at Univ of Puerto Rico

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Thu Feb 5 09:10:42 EST 2004



 From Vieques to the University of Puerto Rico: The Struggle Continues
by Hector Rosario, PhD <hrosario at math.uprm.edu>

It's before dawn and already almost thirty students are assembling to
begin the takeover of an Army ROTC building at the University of Puerto
Rico, Mayaguez Campus. It's been planned for weeks, with both legal and
professional advice. The morale is high and the determination to oust the
military program from their campus is resolute. Harvard and Yale expelled
their programs in the sixties and they don't have the additional problem
of being located in one of the few remaining colonies of the world. But
there they are, following on the footsteps of their predecessors at the
University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras, who also attempted to oust the
program, with the difference that now their successors have resolved to
complete the task left unfinished in the sixties.

As soon as the ROTC officers open the heavy wooden doors of the beautiful
structure the Army occupies but belongs to the UPR, the students swarm the
building: four do a sit-in inside the administrative office, half-a-dozen
paint anti-war and anti-ROTC murals on two of the outside walls, while the
rest hold the doors to keep control of the main lobby. The officers are
upset but feel powerless in front of a group of highly organized and
disciplined nonviolent demonstrators. The ROTC personnel are puzzled as to
what to do in such circumstances. They wish for a more favorable scenario
where they can employ their violent skills. What a great disappointment.

Security officers come quickly to the scene but soon realize, as expected,
that the symbolic takeover is a new tactic of the same group of students
that has kept a civil disobedience encampment for the past four months at
the foundations of an Air Force ROTC structure being rebuilt. Certainly,
the construction there stopped and it will not be allowed to continue
until there is a commitment by the university administration to return the
building to the broader college community. But back to the Army ROTC
protest, here they are again, quite a few students accompanied by
professors.

The day goes on and tensions rise. The cadets are angry and aggressive but
the students claim this as their building, a building that was meant for
the education of a country not for the military training of its citizens
that will eventually participate in the massacres of children and the
destruction of infrastructures in Iraq, Afghanistan, or any other
“pre-emptive” war. Not in our name. Not with our resources. Not anymore!

At night, we hold a vigil and have an open-house for the university
community. We watch documentaries about Iraq and the School of the
Americas, while another group fraternizes with music. It’s time to rejoice
but not much. We recall that while we taste a small victory, Iraqis are
resisting the occupation and many of them are dying. Yes, many soldiers
fighting in US uniform, including over 3,000 from Puerto Rico, are also
dying. Even though they made that dreadful choice and must be held
accountable for it, we still have to bear the pains of the families
disrupted by death, mutilation, and disease.

Morning comes and it's time to pack and go -- for now. We declare a temporary
victory: we took over the building, reclaimed it as cultural patrimony,
and left peacefully. We will now face the consequences of our actions,
whatever those may be. The administration seems clueless and feeble in
front of our ingenuity and resolve. What they don't understand is that the
successful demilitarization campaign of Puerto Rico did not end with
Vieques. There's still work to be done.

Civil disobedience and direct action protests will continue until the
demilitarization of the University of Puerto Rico is attained. The
encampment that students have maintained since the beginning of the fall
semester at the former Air Force ROTC structure stands proudly today as a
symbol of dignity and perseverance.

At the site, a small concrete lot, the students meet, eat, sleep, and
coordinate their next move. All throughout, the students have braved
everything from hostile administration officials and security officers to
inclement weather and lack of basic needs like water and electricity. But
again, there’s still work to be done.

We urge anti-war activists across the United States to help us disseminate
our message. We must fight the insanity of war from every angle. This
requires ending all ROTC programs and their recruitment activities on our
college campuses.

Frente Universitario por la Desmilitarización y la Educación (FUDE)
fude_rum at hotmail.com (787) 969-0494



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