On international workers day, the people of Puerto Rico took to the streets, in protest of to the pension cuts, rising university tuition, mass school closures, privatization of schools and the sluggish recovery efforts after Hurricane Maria. The protesters consisted of teachers, college students, children, parents, union workers, and retirees.
The national strike was a response to the neoliberal reforms that La Junta and Rosello planned to implement. In march a bill was passed to clothes 300 public schools and to cut pensions. Along with that changing the undergraduate cost per credit, it was $57 and they increased it to $115. Another big issue is the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, there is still a lack of electricity, destruction of homes, and FEMAS slow and unhelpful response to reconstructing Puerto Rico.
The protest happened in San Juan, more specifically the neighborhood of Hato. As the march got closer to La Junta offices, the protesters were brutally attacked by the police officers. Although the police officers had protective gear and masks on they said that they were being attacked by some of the protesters. The protesters say that the police were sent to intimidate the protesters and to stop the protest. This altercation between the police and the protesters resulted in the police using force, fired tears gas, shot rubber bullets in the crowd, and pepper sprayed the protesters. One family that was in the middle of leaving the protest, the family was sprayed by the police officers, the family consisted of children as young as 9.
It is important to remember that Puerto Rico is a United States territory and the people of Puerto Rico are United States citizens, therefore this is a U.S issue and if you are concerned or want to help Puerto Ricans in their fight for basic human rights, call your local representatives or get in contact with local non-profit organizations on the island.