High hopes for a ‘historic May 1 for Puerto Rico’
The so-called “Paro Nacional,” or national strike, and march, “Hit the Streets May 1: In Defense of Labor Rights, Education and the People’s Dignity,” began early Monday with a massive turnout. Multiple organizations arrived at noon to the central offices of the federally established Financial Oversight & Management Board in Hato Rey’s World Plaza building to protest the central government’s fiscal plan during International Workers’ Day.
The large gathering of protesters was met by a large police presence at the financial district, where several confrontations ensued. After the events on stage had ended. Moments of intense tension were seen Monday afternoon between police and demonstrators, resulting in people being hit with night sticks, as well as rocks, bottles and tear gas being thrown. Several people were arrested.
“High spirits abound and we believe that there will be much participation of the people in this march. It will be a historic May 1 for Puerto Rico. I believe the people will show their displeasure in this march, and many sectors will join the event. The people will see a lot of diversity in the participation,” Luisa Acevedo, co-spokesperson of the Puerto Rican Concentration Against the Fiscal Control Board and former president of the Central Workers’ Federation (FCT by its Spanish initials), said earlier Monday.
The first group, the General Workers’ Union (UGT by its Spanish initials) began its demonstration at 8 a.m. at the Medical Center and headed toward San Juan’s Hato Rey banking district by train.
At 10 a.m., several marches left the University of Puerto Rico (UPR), Río Piedras campus; from Plaza las Américas, through the Chardón Avenue; from the Hiram Bithorn stadium on Roosevelt Avenue; and from the Labor Department on Muñoz Rivera Avenue.
“We have a Security Committee that has widely discussed the different march routes with the Police, Col. [Juan] Cáceres, and Superintendent Michelle Hernández, and we have made all the arrangements for this demonstration to be held peacefully. The people can rest assured this will be a peaceful demonstration and it is a safe event,” added Acevedo, who has been a union leader for more than 40 years.
The march from the UPR comprises the Non-teaching Exempt Employees Association (HEEND by its Spanish initials), the Puerto Rican Association of University Professors (APPU by its Spanish acronym), the UPR Workers Union, the university community, and the Puerto Rico Workers Federation (FTPR by its Spanish initials).
The feminist group “Marea de Mujeres” will departed from Plaza las Américas, while the Irrigation & Electrical Workers Union (Utier by its Spanish acronym) marched from the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority’s (Prepa) headquarters to the Hiram Bithorn stadium.
Meanwhile, the Actors Society, ProSol Utier, the United Public Servants (SPU by its Spanish initials) and the Broad Front in Defense of Public Schools (Fadep by its Spanish acronym) departed at the same time from the Labor Department in Hato Rey.
The Puerto Rican Workers Central (CPT by its Spanish initials) and the Unitary Coordinator of State Workers (CUTE by its Spanish acronym) began their demonstration across the fiscal oversight board’s headquarters at World Plaza.
On Sunday, several buildings along the Hato Rey banking district’s so-called golden mile were boarded up and had fencing installed around them ahead of Monday’s demonstrations. Coincidentally, Sunday was the same day that Promesa’s stay on litigation against the Puerto Rico government ended.
On Friday, the oversight board–established by the federal Promesa law–approved the fiscal plans of several public institutions: Prepa, the Puerto Rico Aqueduct & Sewer Authority (Prasa), the Highways and Transportation Authority (HTA), and the organized liquidation of the insolvent Government Development Bank (GDB).
On Friday as well, the governor delivered a televised message in which he warned that the government will have “zero tolerance” for violent protesters or those who engage in vandalism during Monday’s strike.