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.
Police in #PuertoRico, wearing military style gear, are firing rubber bullets & tear gassing protestors marching bc of school closings, lack of Hurricane Maria recovery aid, the control board, austerity measures, etc. pic.twitter.com/ioPzbox9Y7
— Denice Frohman (@denicefrohman) May 1, 2018
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 — After a day of protest against corrupt government, terrible hurricane Maria relief, budget cuts, and lost jobs, the police and Puerto Rican government has implemented martial law on its people leading inhuman violence. ?? pic.twitter.com/QcJtFA98lc
— HĪP MAGAZINE (@HIPWEEKLY) May 2, 2018
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.
Earlier today these young children and many more were pepper sprayed by the police.They were demonstrating with thousands on May Day to demand their schools not be closed.The Governor of Puerto Rico gave police orders to disperse crowds by any means. He is a criminal. #puertorico pic.twitter.com/SXL5TBwtaD
— Rosa A. Clemente (@rosaclemente) May 1, 2018
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.
This is #PuertoRico
This is the #Police
This is how they #ServeAndProtect the citizens of Puerto Rico.
My question is…Who R they serving & what R they protecting???
This is how our government spends our tax dollars instead of helping the people of Puerto Rico. #Shame pic.twitter.com/Mj7ZrOUPYI
— Heidi Claire 4 ? (@HeidiJaster) May 2, 2018
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.