March 11th, 2011 has been declared as World Day of Solidarity with the students of the University of Puerto Rico. There are events happening all over the United States and across the globe. While the U.S. gaze hasn’t really focused on the struggle of the Puerto Rican students and it’s larger implications, the world has.
Why March 11?
March 11, 1971 was one of the bloodiest single days in the history of the University of Puerto Rico. The main campus at Río Piedras was occupied by the Puerto Rico Police, unleashing violent confrontations that ended the lives of two police officers, including the then chief of the notorious Tactical Operations Unit, and one student.
Barely one year before, on March 4, 1970, during a student demonstration, student Antonia Martínez Lagares was shot dead by police. These tragedies influenced a series of decisions that helped reduce the intensity of on-campus conflicts during the following decades, including the removal of the United States’ Army Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), and an institutional commitment to resolving conflicts without police intervention.
Forty years later, the UPR community, led by the students, still struggles for a democratic and accessible institution, against the abusive and exclusionary policies of the latest colonial government. Among these, aside from its clear intention to privatize higher education as much as it can, said government has laid off over 25,000 public employees, and intends to build a gasoduct across the island that will displace entire communities and impact areas of high ecological and archeological value.
In this context, the Río Piedras Campus once again lived several months of police occupation, with the open support of the government and university administrators, in reaction to the strike democratically declared by the Río Piedras General Student Assembly, rejecting an unjust and arbitrary $800 hike in the cost of studying. The eyes of the world watched as Puerto Rico Police officers tortured peaceful civil disobedients with impunity, sexually accosted and attacked women students, discriminatorily harassed student leaders, and savagely beat people, even under custody, all before the television cameras.
There can be no doubt that the recent decision by Governor Luis Fortuño to withdraw the bulk of the police force from the Río Piedras Campus is a partial victory for the students, who with their bravery and determination have raised the political cost of sustaining that level of repression way to high for the government to afford. However, now is not the time to lower the guard. It wouldn’t be the first time that the Fortuño administration temporarily curtails its use of brute force, only to return even more violently under any pretext. We are convinced that if the Puerto Rico Police is not removed immediately, completely, and permanently from all UPR campuses, it will only be a matter of time before another March 11.
In addition, we are united by the firm conviction that the demands of the UPR community are just. The strike is still in effect, and the struggle (its current phase) will continue until the $800 hike is eliminated. In the longer term, we support a real democratization of the decision-making process in the UPR, so that it is the community that determines the best way to handle the institution’s financial and administrative problems.
For all of these reasons, Friday, March 11, 2011, fortieth anniversary of that fateful March 11, will be World Day of Solidarity with the UPR. On that day we will hold, in our respective cities, simultaneous demonstrations together with individuals and organizations that support just causes. At a time when the powerful voice of the brave Egyptian people and all arab nations is still ringing around the the globe, we are confident that the people of consciousness of the world will welcome this initiative and organize their own activities of solidarity on that day.
This post will be used to compile events for that day so that those who wish to support can. It will be updated regularly.
New York City
Friday, March 11 · 6:30pm – 9:00pm
Julia de Burgos’s Mosaic
106 St, Spanish Harlem
(Note : Mala will be at this event covering it for VivirLatino)
Friday, March 11, 4:30-7:00pm
24th/Mission BART Station Plaza in San Francisco