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Puerto Rico Witnessed Violent Clashes With Protesters And Police During May Day Demonstrations

Thousands of Puerto Ricans took to the streets on Tuesday to protest pension cuts, school closures and slow recovery efforts after Hurricane Maria devastated the island in September. The May Day marches started off peacefully as students, teachers and government employees made their way through San Juan before things turned violent. Heavily armored police threw tear gas cans and rubber bullets at protesters as demonstrations crossed through blocked off areas.

At least eight people were arrested and a number of people were injured, including fifteen police officers during May Day demonstrations in Puerto Rico.

Gov. Ricardo Rossello said police were left with minimal options but to act after a small group of agitators threw rocks and bottles at them. Most followed the planned protest route without incident, and the march ended with a rally in front of the Capitol in San Juan. Many on the island are frustrated with the sluggish hurricane recovery efforts and steep budget cuts to tackle the island’s financial crisis.

The march comes as Puerto Rico continues to recover from an 11-year recession.

Puerto Rico is dealing with a $75 billion dollar debt. In response to the debt, the government is finding ways to save money to curb the debt and it includes increasing costs on the middle and lower class. College students in Puerto Rico have been hit the hardest. At Puerto Rico’s largest public university the undergraduate cost per credit has increased from $57 to $115, then to an eventual $157 over five years, according to The Washington Post. Many students in Puerto Rico have yet to return to school due the Hurricane Maria, which hit the island more than six months ago.

Children joined the protesters to fight for their schools to remain open but were tear gassed by police.

Puerto Rico is set to close 280 schools in August due to sharp decreases in enrollment, which comes after 179 were closed last year. In November 2017, NYU announced that it would be offering admission to 50 students from Puerto Rico affected by Hurricane Maria under the Hurricane Maria Assistance Program.

Cuts to pensions and other benefits have left Puerto Ricans with few options.

Similar protests took place last May Day which also ended in violence in the streets and civilian injuries. Many businesses this year were prepared as they boarded up shops in anticipation that protests may end similarly to last year.


READ: Here Are 11 Reasons People Protested For Immigrant Rights On May Day In Los Angeles

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