Puerto Rican student strike

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Ron Obvious's picture
Ron Obvious
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Jun 20 2010 13:01
Puerto Rican student strike

Is anyone familiar with the student strike on the island of Puerto Rico? News claims 10 of 11 campuses were closed over student complaint of tuition hikes. Is there more to it than what was reported?

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Khawaga
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Jun 20 2010 14:49

A couple of links.

http://occupyca.wordpress.com/2010/05/26/death-at-university-of-puerto-rico-strike/ (with links to more info).

http://www.edu-factory.org/edu15/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=345:caribbean-youth-battle-for-the-future-of-public-education-general-strike-at-the-university-of-puerto-rico-goes-into-its-fourth-week&catid=34:struggles&Itemid=53

They strikers did just win btw (Thursday I think), all of their demands were met (apart from a few students still being in jail).

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madashell
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Jun 20 2010 15:16

Awesome, is there much of a history of this kind of thing in Puerto Rico?

Also:

Quote:
The University strike has received support from wide swaths of the Puerto Rican population, including popular artists such as Ricky Martin

Never would have seen that one coming.

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Khawaga
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Jun 20 2010 15:43

I am not sure if there's a history of student militancy. I wasn't even aware of this strike until a Puerto Rican friend told me about it.

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Ron Obvious
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Jun 21 2010 01:45
Quote:
I am not sure if there's a history of student militancy.

I understand that there is such a history, but usually it doesn't have popular support. Supposedly the strike represents a greater dissatisfaction of those on the island have with cuts in state support. I have family there and I didn't hear about this until three days ago.

Caiman del Barrio
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Jun 21 2010 04:14

http://libcom.org/news/puerto-rico-student-strikers-port-workers-clash-police-governors-fundraiser-22052010

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Juan Conatz
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Jul 4 2010 22:16

Here's some more stuff on the student strike

UPR Students Brutalized at the Capitol
http://occupyca.wordpress.com/2010/06/30/upr-student-hit-at-demo/

The yeast and the oven
http://jalaguarta.com/2010/04/27/the-yeast-and-the-oven/

From Hanoi to the Magic Kingdom, and back again
http://jalaguarta.com/2010/05/17/from-hanoi-to-the-magic-kingdom-and-back-again/

The Future is Now
http://jalaguarta.com/2010/06/24/the-future-is-now/#more-349

Mark.
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Dec 3 2010 23:52

Lessons of the 2010 University Of Puerto Rico Strike/Occupation (video)

Quote:
A mass strike and occupation took pace at the University of Puerto Rico to protect public education starting in April 2010 and ending with a victory in June of 2010. This is a presentation made at a California conference to defend public education at San Francisco State University on 30th October 2010 by Oduarto Gamelyn, a law student at the University of Puerto Rico.
Mark.
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Dec 6 2010 23:37

UPR students are holding a 2 day strike starting tomorrow, and have given university authorities an ultimatum to withdraw a levy of $800 per student by 14th December or face another all out stoppage. Report here (in Spanish but with plenty of photos).

More on the $800 levy here.

Quote:
In the wake of the two-month student strike that crippled the spring semester, the university community is facing a new conflict this term as the UPR Board of Trustees has said it will begin levying an annual $800 per student special fee starting in January aimed at getting the public institution through its financial problems.

Students have already approved a resolution to strike over the special fee, but UPR administration officials say the $40 million the quota will raise is essential to confront a deficit of nearly $200 million the system faces for fiscal 2011, which started July 1.

and more about the strike here

Quote:
The University of Puerto Rico is headed for the second chapter of the 2010 student strike after a general assembly voted Wednesday afternoon in favor of yet another student strike to avert the special Fiscal Stabilization fee that will go into effect next January.

After more than five hours under a scorching sun on the UPR-Río Piedras track field, students voted 851 to 324 in favor of an indefinite student strike to start  Dec. 14, if Certification 146 has not been repealed by then. The strike will be preceded by a 48-hour stoppage on Tuesday and Wednesday, the week before the strike…

Mark.
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Dec 7 2010 10:11

Back in June...

How to Prevent Another UPR Strike in December

Quote:
Maritza Stanchich, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of English/Humanities

UPR-Río Piedras

June 21, 2010



Just as the UPR strike yesterday concluded with exemplary civility and a model of parliamentary procedure in a historic system-wide student assembly, with a preventive strike widely approved in the event of imposed student fees in January, a PNP senator muscled through a proposal without any benefit of debate to significantly expand the UPR Board of Trustees, over the outcry of minority PDP voices, which now goes to Gov. Fortuño for approval.



While students continue to display command of the most basic protocol of civic governance, this current PNP administration, the same one that stacked the Puerto Rico Supreme Court in its favor, then stipulated in Ley 7 that the only recourse to challenge the law is via that body, yesterday once again showed its true colors––and I don't mean red, white and blue. 


And UPR student leaders get accused of being agents of provocation and chaos?



Let's pause to briefly recap this historic strike.

The UPR strike concluded yesterday has broken all the molds of previous strikes at UPR, built alliances across all political sectors, set an example of dynamic conduct and creativity (dominated alternative media, planted organic gardens, remained non-violent, etc., just for starters).



This strike was sustained at 10 campuses for nearly two months at the end of the academic year with no violence except at least three incidents of attacks by Puerto Rico's notorious riot squad and police, injuring several students, parents of students and journalists (though to be fair some police were pepper sprayed on the first day of the strike as students seized control of the gates, but that was it). With tensions high, especially at certain points throughout the two months, UPR students put their lives on the line for the principle of public education. This is just one reason they enjoyed broad support by the public and public figures alike, as well as by a spectrum of professors, staff and administrators at the university...

Mark.
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Dec 7 2010 21:08

The only report in English I can find on today's strike is from this unsympathetic source

Quote:
Tensions were running high as a 48-hour student strike got underway at the University of Puerto Rico’s flagship Río Piedras campus on Tuesday.

Police, campus guards and private security guards were posted at entrances and along the perimeter a day after the UPR administration removed the main gate in a bid to keep the Río Piedras campus open to students who want to study.

The rest of the 11-campus UPR system remained under normal operations Tuesday morning. However, UPR Cayey students voted to stage a 36-hour solidarity strike.

...

Though there's more on the removal of the gate to the Río Piedras campus here

Mark.
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Dec 8 2010 10:46

Photos and videos from Río Piedras yesterday

Mark.
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Dec 9 2010 11:42

Puerto Rico: tense prelude to the student strike

UPR on strike once more

Live blog in Spanish

Machine translation of live blog

Photos from stategic planning meeting on Monday

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Juan Conatz
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Dec 9 2010 19:26

Hey, thanks for the updates. I've had a tough time keeping up on that stuff this year.

Mark.
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Dec 9 2010 19:38

Río Piedras campus is now under police occupation.

Quote:
Dec.9th - 3:20pm GMT

"Puerto Rico: Police has taken over the Rio Piedras Campus. Only residents can enter. Police hadn't entered the campus in 30 years since when killings saddened the community in the 1981 strike. Right now... WE ARE NOT ON STRIKE. THE ADMINISTRATION HAS DECLARED WAR AGAINST US. THE GOVERNOR DECLARED THAT NO LEFTIST ACTIVISM WILL TAKE PLACE IN THE UNIVERSITY OF PUERTO RICO."

Dec.9th - prdailysun.com reports

Several units of riot police occupied the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras just before midnight Wednesday. A few hours earlier university students had ended the 48-hour stoppage they held since Tuesday morning.

Dec.9th - 1:15pm GMT

"UPRRP PUERTO RICO: We're in a strike in front of the university the police is inside the campus. We're not entering the campus until the police decides to go out. The administration want us to pay $800 + the $ for the credits per student."

Dec.9th - 12:30pm GMT

"After a 48 hours strike in the University of Puerto Rico, the police has entered and occupied the university. Since 1981 that has not happened in Puerto Rico. They have violated the no confrontation policy of the university, policy was taken after the violent repression of the 1981 student strike."

Dec.9th - 12:05pm GMT

"I'm a student and resident of the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras Campus. The university community, especially students, are angry and disgusted with the fact that the university administration first remove all the gates (which provide security to the students), then they put a private security guards to intervene violently with students through student strike that took place the past two days (Tuesday and Wednesday) and now, after 30 years, the police again invade our university in an act of repression from university administration and government of Puerto Rico. Students are open to dialogue and only proclaim the repeal of the certification that requires all students to pay an unfair annual fee of $ 800 for fiscal stabilization. I say unfair, because there is a budget deficit of 250 million dollars due to mismanagement of the university. We are not responsible of the deficit."

Dec.9th - 7am GMT

"After students finished a 48hr strike the police (especially the division known as special force tactics) invaded all 11 campuses of the University of Puerto Rico, not letting students go in or out of their dorms, closing gates without giving any information as to what is going on!"
details in Spanish: elnuevodia.com

Photos

Mark.
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Dec 10 2010 22:50

'Massive union support for UPR strike'

Edit: I've just realised this is actually an old story from the strike earlier in the year - still interesting though

Mark.
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Dec 10 2010 12:11

Riot police seize the University of Puerto Rico

Quote:
Thursday Dec 9th, 2010 7:10 PM

After midnight on Thursday, December 9, 2010 the Puerto Rican police force, including SWAT forces broke into the Rio Piedras campus of the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), as well as other campuses. In multiple police cars, jeeps, and passenger vans, various branches of the police force, including the SWAT team in full riot gear entered the campus, after being prohibited from doing so for over 31 years. Puerto Rico’s ultra-conservative governor, Luis Fortuño, and his political ally the UPR president Jose Ramon de la Torre broke the non-confrontation policy even after the campus dean said that police would not enter after striking students left.

In doing so, government and university officials not only violated the autonomy of the university, but also the long-standing policy of non-confrontation between the police and students. The policy came after police riots and attacks on students left a wake of serious injuries and even death in the student uprisings of the 70’s and 80’s. In an 1981 incident students were chased by police gunfire into a dead-end street of Rio Piedras. Since that tragedy the Puerto Rican police have not entered the 11 campuses of the UPR.

Thursday, police carrying their firearms entered the university, while other officers filmed students and took close up pictures of protesting students, professors and Amnesty International and Lawyers’ Guild observers. At multiple campuses officers blocked the gates and academic buildings preventing entrance and exit of the university. This decision was unknown to the Board of Trustees, the Academic Senate, the Student Council and leaders of the student strike.

Tonight the police remain inside the campus, and according to government and university officials they will now be a constant presence. Students and professors have said that they will not open or attend classes until police leave, and students still plan to strike indefinitely over the tuition hike beginning on Tuesday, December 12th. For more information, check out student-run news at http://www.radiohuelga.com, http://www.rojogallito.com or for English language news, http://www.prdailysun.com/?page=news.news&cat=local.

.

UPR students hold vigil to keep cops off campus

Quote:
It was not business as usual at the University of Puerto Rico Río Piedras campus Thursday as students, teachers, labor groups and political organizations presented a united fund to boycott classes.

While students gathered outside the gates, refusing to go to class, their professors met off- campus and voted not to teach as long as police remained on campus.

They also postponed the strike vote they had approved last week in exchange for the administration receiving the students for a dialogue.

Mark.
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Dec 10 2010 22:55
Quote:
Dec.10th - 12:20pm GMT

"People are still there blocking the avenue (Río Piedras campus). A professor is giving classes in front of the gate.
The administration has agreed to talk to the the presidents of the student councils from the 11 campuses (I don't know when). If this doesn't happen soon, the strike is still on for Tuesday but I don't know how it will be because of the police presence."

Dec.10th - 11:50am GMT

"The rector said that the police will continue inside the campus."

"Police is stationed at every entrance and you have to show your student ID to be allowed inside the campus."

"Professors held an assembly in front of the main gate and voted to not enter the campus until the police leaves. They also decided to not do a strike under the condition that the administration negotiates with the students.
A vigil of students, professors and other employees is being held in front of the main gate until the police leaves the campus. We have vowed to not enter the campus until this happens."

Mark.
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Dec 10 2010 23:04

Report from socialist worker (the US one) - 'UPR students resume strikes'

Mark.
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Dec 11 2010 13:30

More photos and videos

Mark.
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Dec 14 2010 23:30

The student strike has now started

Photos of march yesterday against the quota and the police presence at Río Piedras campus

Press report - 'UPR student strike starts today at Río Piedras'

Report in Spanish on the start of the strike this morning

Caiman del Barrio
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Dec 15 2010 02:00

I've been tryign to work through the various links here, what's the deal with security? Are they UPR-hired? I'm guessing it's autonoma right?

What's the plan now the strike's over?

Really, really impressed with the level of organisation here. I briefly studied at a uni in Mexico which had previously had a year-long strike and occupation before being evicted by the military (given special dispensation by the Rector to go on campus) and ultimately leading to the formation of a new militarised police force to deal with social unrest. They defeated las cuotas, eventually.

Mark.
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Dec 16 2010 00:37

Edit: Caiman - see the article by Maritza Stanchich posted below for more information.

Mark.
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Dec 15 2010 10:53
Caiman del Barrio wrote:
I've been tryign to work through the various links here, what's the deal with security? Are they UPR-hired? I'm guessing it's autonoma right?

Here's a reference to UPR-hired security when the gates to the campus were taken down last week. I'm not sure whether or not they're still involved.

http://www.prdailysun.com/index.php?page=news.article&id=1291691933

Quote:
The gates at the University of Puerto Rico Río Piedras campus were surprisingly taken down early Monday morning by independent contractors, allegedly to guarantee the continuity of the institution's operations.

Around midnight, the crew — escorted by dozens of adolescent security guards from Capitol Security Services — took down the gates on Barbosa Avenue.

.

Caiman del Barrio wrote:
What's the plan now the strike's over?

As far as I can make out the strike has only just begin. The two day stoppage last week was intended as an opening shot, with a deadline of 14 December to withdraw the 800 dollar quota. The government has responded by sending police to occupy the main UPR campus to preempt another indefinite occupation by students. The students are now on strike again and it looks like the university is at a standstill. I'd imagine this would be the last week before the Christmas break so it's possible that there won't be much more happening until the new year.

http://www.prdailysun.com/news/UPR-student-strike-starts-today-at-Ro-Piedras

Quote:
Contrary to the Supreme Court decision, Río Piedras campus chancellor Ana R. Guadalupe has circulated a notification informing the university community that all demonstrations are forbidden within campus until Jan. 12. As a matter of fact, “FREE-SPEECH AREA” signs have been displayed along the sidewalks around the campus perimeter. The signs seem to imply that protests outside the designated areas are to be considered illegal and that demonstrating students and/or non-students could be arrested by the police officers standing in front of each of the university gates.

The Puerto Rico Police Department increased the number of officers assigned to the Río Piedras campus and as of Monday afternoon there was intensive patrolling on the almost deserted campus.

Mark.
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Dec 15 2010 23:41

Photos and report in Spanish from today - the second day of the student strike

Report in Caribbean Business

Quote:
Students and professors were relatively few and far between on the rain-soaked second day of a strike at the University of Puerto Rico’s main Río Piedras campus.

Striking students continued to stage demonstrations in designated areas while other supporters snarled traffic with protest caravans along busy Ponce de León Avenue.

The stoppage spread to the UPR Cayey campus, where students approved a strike vote.

Maintenance and other non-teaching employees reported for work at the Río Piedras campus, which remained open. Some students and professors reported for class, but attendance appeared lighter than during the strike’s first day.

This is from a source which is hostile to the student strike and seems to have been trying to play down support for it. See their report yesterday for instance.

It does appear that the strike hasn't spread to most of the other campuses yet.

Photos and videos from yesterday

Request for international solidarity (in Spanish)

Quote:
We appeal to student, base, political and union organisations, social movements and individual activists to show solidarity on an international level with the struggle of students in Puerto Rico.

Messages of support and reports of any action in support of the UPR students could be put up on Puerto Rico indymedia (click on ¡Publica! to post).

There's a video with a message of support from Holland here. This was recorded on Friday at a demonstration at the university of Utrecht in support of British students.

Mark.
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Dec 16 2010 00:09

English version of that international solidarity request

Quote:
In the Caribbean nation of Puerto Rico, still a formal colony of the U.S. Empire, thousands of students are fighting against the imposition of a “special fee” by the administration of the University of Puerto Rico, which doubles tuition overnight. Following a successful student strike earlier this year that lasted more than 60 days, the UPR administration and the current government of Puerto Rico, headed by governor Luis Fortuño, keeps trying to bleed the student body dry, with this new outrage justified on the basis of forged financial information distributed by administration itself. If this fee is implemented, over 10,000 students will not be able to study next semester.

After a 48-hour warning strike earlier this month, as part of the current phase of the student struggle, the Puerto Rico Police Department occupied the main UPR campus at Río Piedras, as well as the Bayamón and Aguadilla campuses.

We must never forget that current Police Superintendent José Figueroa Sancha was a local FBI chief during the cold-blooded murder of revolutionary leader Filiberto Ojeda Ríos in 2005, and that his deputy, José A. Rosa Carrasquillo brutally kicked student José “Osito” Pérez while he was pinned down in the incidents at the Sheraton Hotel, during th Student Strike this past may. We must not forget that the UPR was free from police presence for nearly 30 years, after the establishment of a policy of non-confrontation that was a sensible response by the administration of the time to the bloody repression of the student movements of the 1970s and early 1980s.

On behalf of the more than 4,000 members of the network Boricuas Around the World in Support of the UPR, created during the previous strike, we demand the immediate removal of the PR Police from all UPR campuses, and repudiate the neoliberal policies of the of the government and UPR administration, as well as their fascistic repression of the students, faculty, and workers who defend quality public education accessible to all.

We send our solidarity and a warm embrace to the student resistance in this latest phase of struggle. We enthusiastically greet the start of a new indefinite Student Strike on December 14. We understand that one of the aims of Puerto Rico’s current neoliberal government is to privatize the country’s only public university, turning access into a privilege of those who can pay for it. In this way, the government pushes educational opportunities further and further away from the sons and daughters of poor and working class Puerto Ricans.

We urge all student, grassroots, political, and labor organizations, social movements, and individual supporters of social justice around the world to express their solidarity with the student struggle in Puerto Rico.

No Fee!
Repressive forces out of the UPR!
The campus is not a military camp!
Long live the students!

Mark.
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Dec 16 2010 00:34

Report by Maritza Stanchich, a professor of English at UPR

Quote:
Coincident with massive, at times explosive, student protests in Rome and London, University of Puerto Rico has again become a flashpoint with a student strike beginning Tuesday that turned the main campus into a militarized zone of police, riot squad, and SWAT teams, complete with low-flying helicopters and snipers. What began as a conflict over a steep student fee hike is now seen as a larger struggle to preserve public education against privatization.



Resistance to the imposed $800 student fee has triggered repressive state measures: police have occupied the main campus for the first time in 31 years and Monday the local Supreme Court, recently stacked by the pro-Statehood political party in power, outlawed student strikes and campus protests. More than 500 students defied the ruling by demonstrating on campus Tuesday, brandishing the slogan "They fear us because we don't fear them" ("Nos tienen miedo porque no tenemos miedo"). This current strike revisits accords to negotiate the $800 fee, which in June ended a two-month shut down of 10 of 11 UPR campuses, as UPR faces a $240 million budget shortfall precipitated by the state not honoring its own debt to the institution.

...

So far this is the best article I've found in English on the current UPR strike.

Mark.
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Dec 16 2010 22:33

More background information on the UPR strike - student protests in Britain and Greece get mentioned in passing

Mark.
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Dec 17 2010 11:36

Open letter from a Puerto Rican philosophy professor

Quote:
In fact, this is simply a part of the government's plan. They want to close the public university and then get rid of students, professors and other employees that are political dissidents, i.e that are not right wing pro-statehooders. They also want to use that opportunity to sell some of the campuses to some of the so-called "universities", the president of one of which helped economically the present governor to win the elections.

In view of the terrible situation described, I would like those of you that have some contact with organizations of liberal academics to inform them of the situation and to denounce it wherever you can, in order to put some international pressure to the government of Puerto Rico and the Board of Directors of the University of Puerto Rico. In view of the colonial status of Puerto Rico, most news about this country do not transcend our frontiers, but the situation at the University of Puerto Rico is probably worse than that of the protesting students in England, since in England the government is certainly not a neo-fascist one like in Puerto Rico, nor one that has already menaced with the use of extreme force and violence - a little bit of which was already experienced a few months ago.

Mark.
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Dec 17 2010 11:43

Interview with a UPR student on a speaking tour in California in October

Quote:
Gamelyn Oduardo, a law student at the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) Rio Piedras campus, is a member of the student coordinating committee that led the shut down of 10 UPR campuses from April 21 to June 17, 2010. The successful strike stopped devastating cuts, tuition hikes and privatization. Puerto Rican feminist Yuisa Gimeno interviewed him.

What conditions motivated the strike?

The government imposed neoliberal policies that were crippling all state-owned schools and public services like water and electricity and laid off over 20,000 workers. UPR’s budget was reduced by $300 million in the last 10 years.

Maintenance and clerical workers, and faculty suffered reductions in benefits and salaries and lay-offs. For students, this meant worse conditions and less courses available. The administration was still being paid six digit salaries.

Students mobilized with the support of a 24-hour general strike of all organized sectors. The administration “locked out” all of the campuses for a week, as a “security measure.” As the union leadership backed out from the idea of a more prolonged strike, the student movement turned to itself.

What factors and groups made the strike successful?

Our occupations received massive support from labor unions, LGBT and women’s organizations, parents, religious groups and local and international artists. Action Committees were the building blocks of our strike. Internally, radical democracy was the only way in which we kept united. It is horizontal in structure, deliberation, and the discussion of ideas.

UPR faculty, maintenance and clerical workers unions and the Teacher’s Federation helped us shut down the campus and the off-site central administration office. The more radical union, UTIER (electrical workers), set up a 24-hour campsite outside the campus, provided security, brought food and water and helped keep the picket lines going.

Women were the core and vanguard of the movement and on the front lines. In many cases they were braver than the men. Women were on the coordinating and negotiating committees and held public speaking roles. The next strike is going to be the strike of the women.

As California’s eyes were on UPR, our eyes have been on California. Support from organized students and workers in California was of special importance. Rallies in solidarity throughout the world let us know that we are not alone in the struggle for public education.

What challenges does the movement face now?

The Board of Trustees still insist on imposing a “fee” of $800 to every student, while reducing worker’s benefits and services. Federal Pell grants or loans of students involved in the strike have not been released. We haven’t been able to buy books we need for school, single mothers haven’t been able to pay tuition or the rent. The Legislative Branch has enacted laws to impose restrictions on student assemblies, and propose to prohibit work stoppages at UPR.

We are organizing for another possible strike to defy the administration and take to the streets to fight the neoliberal establishment. Most students are convinced that only through radical reform can the university be fully autonomous.

How can Puerto Rican and U.S. activists work together to build solidarity?

Student activists can play an integral role in bringing people together and raising consciousness of the actions that need to be taken, but we can’t do it alone. We need rank-and-file union members. We can’t stop the capitalist offensive by ourselves. The labor movement moves the machinery of the system and they can stop it — not just for 24 hours but for a long time.

We must exchange ideas and build solidarity in person. Students in California have an open invitation to come and strike with us.

Mark.
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Dec 18 2010 17:41

Report in the Puerto Rico Daily Sun

Quote:
The third day of the strike at the University of Puerto Rico started almost where the second had ended; with a standoff between students and the police.

At midmorning Thursday students demonstrating in front of the gate with access to the Social Sciences Department on Ponce de León Avenue almost came face to face with regular police, riot squad and a motorcycle division, who blocked three of the four access routes to the area.

[…]

While students demonstrated in the middle of the street, groups of professors and non-teaching personnel from the university, and independent observers from the Puerto Rico Bar Association positioned themselves between the students and the police.

[…]

Meanwhile, the hallways of all the UPR departments were almost empty for the third day in a row. Despite university administrators assured police presence on campus was to guarantee access to those wanting to go to class, the fact is not many students are attending. Even at the biggest departments, such as Natural Sciences and Education, attendance is scarce at best.

Photos from days 3 and 4 of the strike