News Release

Abuse and Protests in Puerto Rico

Obama is visiting Puerto Rico today.

Mulero is a student activist who was suspended for political activity several months ago. She states that though there are some rights for people in Puerto Rico, real freedom is limited in large part because it is a colony of the United States. She highlights the continued imprisonment of pro-independence activists. She is participating in protests today with “several thousand people. In addition to the issue of independence, the protests are also against war and exploitation.” Barbes is a labor organizer who is also participating in protests today.

Turner is a human rights researcher with the American Civil Liberties Union who has recently returned to New York from investigating abuses in Puerto Rico. Ramirez is executive director of the ACLU office in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

The ACLU just released a statement titled “Investigation Reveals Systematic Pattern of Police Brutality and Abuse in Puerto Rico,” which reports: “According to the ACLU’s preliminary findings, the Puerto Rican government activated the riot squad unit and other police units to respond to peaceful protests by University of Puerto Rico students opposed to a new enrollment fee imposed by university administrators. Students were beaten with nightsticks, maced with pepper spray and shot at with rubber bullets and tear gas canisters. Police have also applied pressure-point techniques on immobilized student protestors, causing pain and, in some instances, unconsciousness.

“Union leaders and workers peacefully protesting the mass firing of more than 20,000 public workers also met with brutal police violence and, after the president of the Puerto Rican Senate cut off public access to legislative sessions last June, protestors were beaten, pepper-sprayed and tear-gassed by the Puerto Rican police. A member of the legislator’s minority party had a ligament in her arm torn by riot squad officers as she was trying to intervene on behalf of five student journalists being beaten by riot squad officers at the entryway of the Capitol.”

See the ACLU’s preliminary findings and video of state abuse: