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Vol. 75/No. 8      February 28, 2011

Students in Puerto Rico demand
repeal fee hike, cops off campus
Thousands marched in Río Piedras, Puerto Rico, February 12 in support of students demanding the repeal of an $800 annual fee increase at the University of Puerto Rico and the withdrawal of police from the campus.

Puerto Rico governor Luis Fortuño ordered the cops to the campus in December, claiming that students protesting the fee increase had been violent and were disrupting classes. This is the first time police have been stationed on campus since they were banned in the early 1980s after cops attacked student protesters.

Fortuño used the cops to prevent students from repeating their successful two-month strike last spring, which had temporarily blocked plans to hike fees and reduce the number of tuition waivers. In December university officials also set designated protest areas and banned protests anywhere else on campus.

Scenes of cops beating student protesters on campus in early February gave impetus to demands for their withdrawal. On February 14 Fortuño backed down, announcing the bulk of the cops would be removed. Some 200 cops from the police Tactical Operations Unit ended their occupation of the Río Piedras campus, although some cops are still stationed at the main entrances.

That same day students marched through the campus chanting “Education is a right, not a privilege.”

On February 15 protest leader Waldemiro Vélez Soto said students were willing to negotiate with the university administration as long as “it’s clear that the struggle continues. This is not just about removing the police. We are fighting to get rid of the fee.”  
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