Police Fire Tear Gas & Pepper Spray Into Puerto Rico May Day Protests
Seven months after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, protestors took to the streets on May Day in Puerto Rico to protest failed recovery efforts, an indebted economy, school closings and cuts, and other reforms deemed oppressive by many on the island.
While for many the march went on peacefully, for some it turned violent. The ACLU in Puerto Rico reported “disproportionately used violence against demonstrators, reporters and legal observers, followed by warrantless arrests of protesters in their homes and university dorms.”
According to Democracy Now, police used tear gas and pepper spray on protesters when protesters tried to converge on the building where a federally appointed fiscal board oversees Puerto Rico’s recovery from $72 billion in debt. The board has proposed cuts on pensions, eliminating Christmas bonuses, reduced vacation and sick time, raising school tuitions and privatizing PREPA, Puerto Rico’s publicly owned power company.
One protester, Yariela Montes, 41, told NBC Puerto Rico she did not know if she would have a job in August as her school is one of the island’s 280 schools scheduled to close. Montes and her husband were also worried about affording the increased tuition at the University of Puerto Rico, where her older daughter studies.
“I don’t know what we will leave our young daughter,” Montes said, referring to the current situation on the island. “This is just such an ugly panorama right now.”
Another protester, Adria Bermudez, told the Associated Press she was marching against the increase of the undergraduate cost per credit from $57 to $115, then to an eventual $157 over five years. She also demanded that government officials and legislators reduce their salaries instead of implementing more austerity measures.
“The measures are aimed at the middle class and low middle class,” she said. “The rich don’t suffer.”
Protesters flooded Twitter with scenes from the May Day march, many of them lamenting the lack of coverage from mainstream media. Scenes from the protest below:
Earlier today these young children and many more were pepper sprayed by the police.They were demonstrating with thousands on May Day to demand their schools not be closed.The Governor of Puerto Rico gave police orders to disperse crowds by any means. He is a criminal. #puertorico pic.twitter.com/SXL5TBwtaD
— Rosa A. Clemente (@rosaclemente) May 1, 2018
Solidarity to people protesting in Puerto Rico. May Day protest has been disrupted by police firing tear gas. pic.twitter.com/xhTEnHwMon
— Taina Asili (@tainaasili) May 1, 2018
— agitator in chief (@soit_goes) May 2, 2018
In some cases, the police assigned to the march looked more like an army occupying a foreign land as they wore gas masks, carried assault weapons, and dressed in army fatigues.
— IBTimes India (@ibtimes_india) May 2, 2018