[News] Puerto Rico - Police Attacks Calculated to Supress Civil Rights

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Jul 2 10:59:35 EDT 2010


Jesús Dávila
translated by Jan Susler

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, July 1, 2010 (NCM) – A 
calculated police operation, according to sworn 
testimony this morning by one of the agents, left 
yesterday afternoon in front of the Capitol 
dozens of demonstrators injured and journalists 
attacked, and served as a framework so that 
behind closed doors the legislature could annul 
the university students’ constitutional rights of 
assembly and freedom of speech.

The sworn statement­ a copy of which NCM News 
obtained­ specifies how the order to disperse the 
crowd was given at least two hours before more 
than a hundred Puerto Rico Police, among them the 
anti-riot force, the horses of the mounted unit 
and a helicopter, swept with batons, kicks and 
gas hundreds of demonstrators who insisted on 
asserting the right that the  legislature be open to the public.

To make matters even worse, the first to be 
violently dispersed were the reporters from the 
student media, who had gone to the Capitol to 
cover the events, and whose press credentials the 
government refused to recognize. Several member 
of the general press and at least two legislators ended up injured as well.

At the close of this edition, a statement was 
expected from the media guilds as well as an 
urgent press conference by the Puerto Rican 
Independence Party, calling the Puerto Rico Police action “gorilla-like.”

Without knowing that it had all happened in a 
calculated way by police commands, Capitol 
employees last night expressed their indignation 
at the picture of some of their vehicles 
overturned by the mass of students, professors, 
and support groups that faced the onslaught of 
batons and gas by police who had no fear of 
punishment. A little later, the legislature 
announced the approval of a new measure that 
eliminated student assemblies and substituted 
them with a remote electronic voting system, 
which any public expression by an official 
student leader must also be subjected to.

The measure substitutes for another which had 
proposed the system of internet voting for 
assemblies of every university organism, 
including professors, and which a source in the 
industry estimated would cost over $50 million to 
establish. That measure would have exempted only 
the Board of Trustees, which would be the only 
organism capable of deliberating and decision 
making without being subjected to the restrictions.

But in fact, a source of the ruling New 
Progressive Party­ which in the past has provided 
reliable information and even confidential 
documents­ assured days ago that the objective 
was to change the project to the one that was 
ultimately adopted. The source indicated that 
it’s all part of a broader agenda to eliminate in 
Puerto Rico the old constitutional right of 
freedom of assembly and substitute it with 
electronic voting, which would guarantee the 
preponderance of the so-called silent majority.
Minutes before the new restriction on 
constitutional rights was approved, the minority 
opposition Popular Democratic Party had withdrawn 
from the Senate floor, as a sign of protest. 
Senate president Thomas Rivera Schatz proclaimed 
that they had managed to be able to complete the 
final work of the ordinary session of the 
Legislature “in this peaceful environment.”

Rivera Schatz himself was an important piece in 
the entire operation when on Friday last week, in 
an action for which officials provided 
contradictory explanations, he ordered the 
expulsion of all journalists from the Senate 
sessions. To accomplish this, he used armed 
police and locks that blocked the press from 
entering, and it stood out in public opinion that 
the public galleries in the third floor had been 
closed since the end of last year.

The PDP minority and the journalists turned to 
separate legal recourse, still pending in court, 
while a group of students from the University of 
Puerto Rico Mayagüez campus called for a 
demonstration yesterday, at which the student 
collectives from several campuses throughout the 
country came together. The Senate, meanwhile, 
which had gone back to permitting journalists to 
enter and which had opened its galleries, put the 
locks back on, and starting early in the 
afternoon the anti-riot squads, known as the 
“Shock Troops” entered the building.

The problem of civil rights is crucial for the 
statehood movement, which has been complaining 
for years that the social and political 
institutions don’t recognize its overwhelming 
majority, as a result of which they have taken 
steps such as last year’s elimination of 
compulsory bar association membership for 
attorneys, because statehood has never gotten a 
majority at its conventions. On the other hand, 
the government understands that the student 
movement carried out a successful two month 
strike that paralyzed the eleven UPR campuses.

Similarly, the legislature approved another 
measure, to criminalize any social protest that 
paralyzes public or private construction sites.

But the isolation of the NPP, barely a year and a 
half after having won the most sweeping electoral 
victory in its history, isn’t limited to the 
student revolt or the political opposition. The 
party is already showing signs of division, such 
as growing complaints from important business 
sectors such as the hotel and insurance 
industries, as well as small town governments.

The situation has a lot to do with the attempts 
to increase government funds, while the country 
continues to be submerged in a galloping economic 
crisis, with more than 100,000 jobs lost since 
the beginning of last year. In this context, the 
divided labor movement continues to be paralyzed, 
and in the social sphere, only groups like the 
students present an articulate opposition to governmental plans.

With great difficulty, at the end of the night, 
the legislature managed to approve a deficit 
budget for state agencies, from the marble and 
alabaster building of the Capitol, in whose 
shadow, even hours after the incidents, the acrid 
odor of tear gas could still be breathed.

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
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