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20-01-11 - More Violence in Puerto Rico as University Student Fee is Imposed

20-01-11 - More Violence in Puerto Rico as University Student Fee is Imposed

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Published by William J Greenberg
Uniriot.org - Il Network Delle Facoltà Ribelli
More Violence in Puerto Rico as University Student Fee is Imposed
THURSDAY, 20 JANUARY 2011 12:43 MARITZA STANCHICH

The imposition of student fees appears imminent at University of Puerto Rico despite violent clashes of striking students with riot police last week. The final date to pay the fee is this Wednesday. The student movement is now regrouping into another phase of the struggle, with plans to continue the strike and preparing for future
Uniriot.org - Il Network Delle Facoltà Ribelli
More Violence in Puerto Rico as University Student Fee is Imposed
THURSDAY, 20 JANUARY 2011 12:43 MARITZA STANCHICH

The imposition of student fees appears imminent at University of Puerto Rico despite violent clashes of striking students with riot police last week. The final date to pay the fee is this Wednesday. The student movement is now regrouping into another phase of the struggle, with plans to continue the strike and preparing for future

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Published by: William J Greenberg on Feb 16, 2011
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More Violence in Puerto Rico as University Student Fee is Imposed
THURSDAY, 20 JANUARY 2011 12:43 MARITZA STANCHICH
 
The imposition of student feesappears imminent at University of Puerto Rico despite violent clashes of striking students withriot police last week. The final date to pay the fee is this Wednesday. The student movement isnow regrouping into another phase of the struggle, with plans to continue the strike and preparing for future reimbursement of the fee through a possible class-action lawsuit. Strikeleaders today are asking students who oppose the $800 fee-the vast majority regardless of their  position on the strike-to opt for paying the first installment and thereby retain their status of enrollment. Assuming it is not hiked, the fee will be $400 in the ensuing semesters."Paying and remaining students is not undermining the strike. Rather it's pay and protest-the process continues," said Xiomara Caro, a law school student and one of the spokespersons for the Comité de Representación Estudiantil (Student Representative Committee).Students are also being advised to write "Pago Bajo Protesta" or "Payment Under Protest" on payments via checks or money orders for evidence of their opposition in the event of reimbursements through a class action lawsuit, successfully achieved in a 2010 ruling againstUniversity of California (as well as in an earlier class action suit against that same institution,Kashmiri v. UC Regents). However, the administration automatically charged the full fee from
 
thousands of Pell Grant allocations without consent. Promised government measures to cushionthe blow of the fee have not yet been institutionalized. It is estimated at least 10,000 studentssystem-wide will drop out, including graduate students whose tuition is more expensive.The University of Puerto Rico serves about 65,000 students on 11 campuses, and is the largestinstitution of higher learning in the Caribbean, the most important center of research in PuertoRico with millions in scientific funding, and the largest Hispanic-serving university in the UnitedStates (since Puerto Rico is technically a U.S. Territory).The forced institutionalization of fees comes after violent clashes with strike police last week asthe fees began to be processed on Thursday, when protesting students blocked workers fromentering Plaza Universitaria, the administrative building housing the offices to process payments.The students brandished multilingual banners of "¡No a La Cuota!" and home-made shields of wood and plastic, some stenciled with "A Defender la UPR" slogans with the university'semblematic clock tower. Strike police dislodged the students with full force, using tear gas, pepper spray and wielding batons and Taser guns, arresting seven, six of whom were later released without charges. One female student appeared to have been arbitrarily clubbed at her  brow, and another hit by a car across campus on a main thoroughfare, Avenida Barbosa.Here are two videos of what transpired that day. The first, at the bottom of this report from theindependent online university newspaper Diálogo Digital, shows police videotaping student protestors. Fears abound that such videos are later used to make targeted arrests, a practice with awidely documented history in the persecution of independence movements throughout the 20thCentury, often in collaboration with the FBI. Puerto Ricans have created their own word for this,"carpeteo," coming from the word "carpeta" or file, andreminiscent of McCarthyism.In this second video, by Telenoticias from Telemundo, at about six minutes, disabled Americanveteran Todd Wesley Fick, is arrested for allegedly attempting to block riot police but was later released without charges after having his leg prosthetic removed and being handled in such away as to later require medical treatment; legal experts opined that the method of arrest may bein violation of the American Disabilities Act.Meanwhile, Statehood Party and Reaganite Republican Gov. Luis Fortuño was in Spain, participating in a celebration of Spanish Conquistador and Puerto Rico's first governor, JuanPonce de León.The fee was processed with fewer clashes the next day with a campus under police occupation.Everyone entering the campus is required to show university identification and occasionally bagsare inspected. Ignored were calls from important sectors such as the Academic Senate for an endto the police occupation, a temporary moratorium on the fee, a postponement of the strike and in-depth dialogue between parties.In response to the climate of repression, a broad coalition began last week with a day of solemncommemoration and tense protest on Tuesday, when the University reopened after the holidaysto complete the fall semester, which had been extended due to brief semester interruptionsrelated to the unrest. The traditional celebration marking the national holiday for Eugenio Mariade Hostos, a renown 19th Century, pro-Independence philosopher and liberal who was politicallyexiled from Puerto Rico, attracted about 300 participants drawn from 56 political, labor and civil
 
rights organizations. The coalition entered the campus despite prohibitions against protest andassembly of any kind on campus from the local Supreme Court and the Chancellor AnaGuadalupe. The Chancellor's edict was recently extended another month by the UPR Board of Trustees.The event later turned sour when riot police intervened during a student-led march from thecommemoration throughout the large campus, as members of a small, militant wing of thestudent movement, called "encapuchados" for the masks they wear to elude the aforementioned"carpeteo" practices, set off smoke bombs to disrupt classes being held despite the strike, andsmashed windows and overturned tables in the Student Center's fast food court. TV crews and journalists captured the mayhem, later broadcast and published as top news. Oddly no arrestswere made, though police were present throughout the march. Leaders of Puerto Rico's smallIndependence Party (PIP) issued statements reminding that their movement has always beeninfiltrated by provocateur and saboteur agents (perhaps most notoriously in the 1978 CerroMaravilla political killings of two UPR students). The student movement committees issuedstatements repudiating the vandalism. The main professors' organization, a supporter of thestudent movement, Asociación Puertorriqueña de Profesores Universitarios, called for prudence.The governor seized the moment to denounce the student movement as violent and not open todialogue.Suspicions of foul play on the part of the government were fanned when the followingday police arrested ten students for handing out informative flyers in a classroom, all of whomwere later released without charges. The blind eye of the police to the vandalism of the previousday had quickly morphed into its opposite, a carte blanche to arrest. One witness to thevandalism, retired telephone company employee and UPR alum Enrique Miranda, seen in thestriped shirt trying to intervene in the following brief YouTube video from WAPA TV, said he feltthe incident had been orchestrated.These incidents capped off a holiday season of extraordinary organizing on the part of thestudent movement: student leaders broadcast sophisticated videos explaining the issues; studentgroups reached out to economically-marginalized communities and their leaders; thegroundbreaking, student-run radio station RadioHuelga projected an edgy cache; Facebook pagesand online independent student journalism stoked constant debate; protesters converged on thePlaza Las Americas Mall and more recently blocked major avenues of transit; street theater,including the two-story tall puppet emblazoned with UPR No se Vende (UPR Not for Sale), became a leitmotif; and multiple spokespersons and leaders imparted a vibrant array of voices.The administration response included suspensions of student leaders, and full-page newspaper advertisements as well as am radio ads, on a daily basis. Slick and sophisticated ads belie theadministration's claim to fiscal crisis, promoting a few options such as new scholarship andwork-study programs to defray the impact of the fee. Students greeted these measures assuperficial and a smokescreen for eventual privatization. Demands for fiscal transparency have been studiously ignored, along with suggestions for improving efficiency.The governor and party leaders met briefly with select student leaders before Christmas, takingadvantage of slow news days for prominent photo-ops and then dismissed or misrepresented

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