By Natalia A. Bonilla-Berrios
SAN JUAN -- Seven days after students from five of the eleven campuses of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) declared an official strike, the state police intervened.
On Monday, Dec. 20, 2010, police used tear gas, taser guns and batons against almost 100 students who protested inside the Rio Piedras Campus. Thirteen students were officially arrested around 6 p.m. and sent to the Hato Rey police station.
"It was a totally abusive act (by police). There was no violent act (committed) here to perform that action," said Osvaldo Burgos, president of the Human Rights Commission of the Bar Association, to the media.
On December 13, the campus' Rector Ana Guadalupe prohibited all gatherings on the university's premises without the approval of the Puerto Rican Supreme Court, who had determined -- according to a resolution to the lawsuit UPR vs Laborde -- that freedom of speech will be assured outside the campus.
This measure was aimed at guaranteeing that classes would not be interrupted by the protests, preventing what had happened during the previous strike of 54 days last summer. The University of Puerto Rico is currently on probation by the Middle States Commission of Higher Education.
During the week, few arrests were made against students who were blocking traffic to the campus. However, no violent incidents were reported until today when following a gathering of the Natural Science faculty, students used smoke balls to force other undergraduates to abandon class.
This strike joins the list of student protests occurring in countries like Italy and England where students are also objecting to the increase in higher education costs.