This is what happened during the Puerto Rico general strike

by | May 4, 2017 | Economy, Headlines | Comments

The May 1 General Strike and March in Puerto Rico was underway before 10:00 am, the time set for marchers to arrive in one of the meeting points from which they would begin walking to the destination point of Milla de Oro, where the Puerto Rican office of the Oversight Board is located. One of the exit points, Ave. Universidad, was entirely full. It was there that truckers (using their loud horns to announce their early arrival at 7:00 am), some members of feminist groups, an LGBTQ organization, and public worker unions had joined the protesting student organization and would take off from the Río Piedras campus of the University of Puerto Rico. The flag of Puerto Rico flew along with the LGBT flag, purple flags of feminist groups, and the black and white version of the Puerto Rican flag. They were brimming with excitement and energy of what they considered to be a decisive moment towards their cause.

Little before 11:00 am, the tread towards the Milla de Oro began during which the chants began. When they passed onlookers or police officers they chanted them to join in (“No nos mires, únete! / Policía, únete!”). The closer the marchers got to Milla de Oro, the chants aimed towards Governor Ricardo Rosselló and the Oversight Board increased (“¿Donde esta Ricky / la Junta?”). Feminists groups were the most vocal in petitioning for the resignation Mayor Héctor O’Neill, the mayor of Guaynabo accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault and using municipal funds to silence his victims.

Before arriving at the Milla de Oro, many had seen that a McDonald’s had been vandalized with spray paint covering the drive-thru menu and the speaker was heavily smashed. Reports were made by those that had passed early that the group causing the vandalism was booed away from the fast food establishment. Many looked on at the sight with fear that the vandalism would continue and worsen, a foreshadowing in hindsight.

Despite that, once arriving to Milla de Oro, the general mood was of accomplishment. Many felt that the message to audit the debt along with their displeasure towards Law 938 would get through. In the avenue was a stage from which artists sang songs of patriotism, resistance, and with an anti-oversight board message. Smaller groups continued to chant and uplift moods, (“Lucha sí, entrega no!”). It was considered a success.

It was after the march was declared officially over and people were told to leave in an orderly matter (possibly as to avoid congestion at train stations and the streets) that the sounds of small explosions and banging were heard. A group of people dressed in mostly black clothing, covering their faces with hoods, masks and motorcycle helmets were breaking the large glass windows of the Popular Center, the headquarters of Banco Popular of Puerto Rico. Many screamed for the group to stop yet once the police deployed tear gas many ran away to avoid getting hit. Reporters and marchers were caught in the crossfire of tear gas and confusion towards what was occurring, some reporting the police wouldn’t let them pass through certain exits to avoid the tear gas.

The group vandalized many buildings in the Milla de Oro area by breaking their windows and spray painting anti-american and anti-capitalist messages. There were also burning of posters that had been left discarded and recycling bins that had been placed to collect water bottles. A SWAT team that was on the scene worked with the police to disperse the vandalizing group and the marchers that were left behind in the confusion. They used rubber bullets and tear gas on the retreating group.

Police followed the group until reaching close to Rio Piedras but did not approach the university like many students feared. After an hour or so the tensions had settled.