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Several young people were arrested on Tuesday in the Santa Rita urbanization, after the May 1 protest.
Several young people were arrested on Tuesday in the Santa Rita urbanization, after the May 1 protest. ([email protected])

Those arrests in the backyard of a residence in Santa Rita urbanization, in Río Piedras - after the May 1 protest - were carried out improperly, said two human rights lawyers yesterday.

"The whole way this police intervention process took place in Río Piedras is contrary to current regulations and Police protocols, so I believe that what will happen is what usually happens regarding this type of cases they do not succeed in court," anticipated lawyer Osvaldo Burgos, president of the Board of Directors of Amnesty International in Puerto Rico.

Lawyer Josué González, of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), added that he thinks it seems "suspicious" that a police operation "that begins with a dispersion in Hato Rey, ends in a persecution in Río Piedras".

"Certainly, what happened was motivated by the police, rounding up protesters so they would end up arrested," said Gonzalez, who will offer a conference today to present the findings of the ACLU regarding Tuesday's protest.

Despite these allegations human rights of violations, acting Police Commissioner, Henry Escalera, defended yesterday the proceeding of La Uniformada (Puerto Rico Police Department). He argued that the intervention was done according to the law and that it was the result of a "hot pursuit" after a young man assaulted a police officer.

But Escalera could not specify the nature of the aggression against the officer or where it originated. "I understand that it must have been in the area ... where it happened and with what, if it was with his hands, I do not have that information," he said.

The protest against austerity measures –considered aimed at the working class- ended yesterday with 19 arrested. By press time, only charges against Ediel Robles had been filed for violations of three sections of the Firearms Law. He was imposed a $ 1,000 bail on each case, said Karixia Ortiz, press director of the Department of Public Security.

The group includes two women and a child under 15. Four of the 19 arrested were released, while one of the women - who is accused of assaulting a policeman on the head - was summoned for her hearing next May 18.

According to the police report, they were arrested for robbery, assault, obstruction to justice, possession of controlled substances, threats and riot.

Regarding the case of controlled substances, Escalera said he did not know what they found. "That was possibly an arrest for assault and while searching they found controlled substances in this person," Escalera said.

"Questionable actions"

On the other hand, Burgos also denounced that the actions of the Police, during the protest on Tuesday, constitute "serious violations" to the police reform due to the inadvertent use of tear gas and improper crowd control by blocking the way.

Burgos cited section 604, chapter 600 of the Police Reform,on the use and handling of chemical agents, which prohibits, among other things, using them in areas where there are people aged 70 or older with respiratory conditions and physical limitations. That section establishes, in turn, that there must be commands before, during and after the use of chemical agents. Burgos indicated that section 625 also defines the measures that the Police must adopt to disperse crowds, as a prior warning and not to block the way to exits.

"I am concerned about this obstinacy of the Police with a particular sector, with these young people identified with the group Se Acabaron Las Promesas (Promises are Over) or that they have a profile. All the arrested people have the same characteristics," said Burgos, who was there when clashes began.

In this context, he denounced "the demonization" of those who protest as a justification for the actions of the government and the intention of the State to decide where and when protests should happen.

Police will answer complaints

Escalera said that organizations that protect civil rights "can take their questionings to the appropiate forums and we will answer them."

He noted that, according to the provisions of the Police Reform, a report on what happened will be submitted.