By Guest Blogger Claudia Sofia Garriga Lopez
Last Monday, April 19th, the students at the University of Puerto Rico declared a strike. By Wednesday hundreds of students occupied the university and closed down all five entrances to the university. They are resisting the 100 million dollar budget cuts, the tuition hikes, and the privatization of the school, that has been put forward by the administration for next semester. These cuts are taking place in a university that is already marked by long lines in administrative buildings and students waiting for years to take classes that are required for graduation because they are often full to capacity. It means a freeze on all promotions, and new hires, as well as a salary reductions for faculty and staff. The tuition will increase but the quality of the services available will be seriously reduced.
Since the occupation, which has been called ocup(arte) the students have participated in street theater, as well as mass bench painting campaigns, puppet making workshops, poetry and music gatherings both inside and outside the university. The riot police has been stationed outside the university, but the students have remained non-violent. They have been assaulted mainly with pepper spray and tear gas, there have been several wounded but a surprisingly small amount of arrests. This is definitely a proud moment in student history for the University of Puerto Rico. The students inside the university have had so much support by their fellow students and other community members that they have had more than enough food, and have subsequently donated to food pantries. Classes have been canceled for the rest of the semester and the strike is indefinite. I will keep you posted as events continue to develop.
For those of you who understand Spanish here is a link of the clown police squad performing outside the university in front of the closed gates. Towards the end of the video Lowell Fiet, Chair of the Interdisciplinary Department of UPR storms the clown police in a dragon mask followed by other dragons chanting "dragones unidos jamas seran vencidos." Its kind of an amazing video.
and here are some interviews with students occupying the university on Saturday
QUE VIVAN LOS ESTUDIANTES DE LA UPR!
*Photo Credit: Primera Hora/Andre Kang