Thousands of Puerto Ricans marked International Workers Day yesterday by protesting against the government’s latest round of financial cutbacks — and it didn’t end well.
Police used tear gas and pepper spray against protesters. NPR reports that police “tried to force their way” past a group of heavily armored officers in the streets of San Juan. Rubber bullets were indiscriminately shot into the crowd as well, per ThinkProgress.
— AnaMariaArchila (@AnaMariaArchil2) May 1, 2018
— The Voice of America (@VOANews) May 2, 2018
The New York Times reports that by day’s end, “13 people had been arrested and 15 police officers had been injured by projectiles or irritated by the gas.”
In response to the day’s chaotic events, Gov. Ricardo Rossello said at a news conference that the police had to respond in this manner after some protesters began throwing rocks and other hard objects. “Freedom of expression cannot come at the expense of people’s safety and well being,” he said.
We will always guarantee the freedom of speech to each and every citizen of Puerto Rico. However, violent acts that jeopardize the security and the well being of our people are reproachable.@DSPnoticias @PRPDNoticias pic.twitter.com/Y8Wf5BVq3n
— Ricardo Rossello (@ricardorossello) May 1, 2018
Puerto Rico is still in a recession that began more than a decade ago, and its economic outlook continues to be grim. Still reeling from the devastation left behind by Hurricane Maria, this new set of austerity measures threaten to close schools, increase university tuitions, and implement cuts to pensions and other benefits.