The Big Controversy: Hooded Demonstrators in Puerto Rico

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During many of the demonstrations in Puerto Rico we have seen some of the demonstrators with their faces and most of their bodies covered in an attempt to protect their identity. Most Puerto Ricans are against this practice of the protesters supported by a good portion of the country’s politicians. So much that the legislative branch approved a new legislation against the hooded demonstrators. What leads the demonstrators to cover their faces? Why the people condemn them?

In Puerto Rico, as in other countries, exist political, social and labor persecution against demonstrators. The Police of Puerto Rico have the so-called ‘folders’, where they file and safeguard information of certain activist and protesters; Each protester who is considered of importance has a ‘folder’ with his name. Activists have called this action “carpeteo”. These folders are used as evidence in arrests, for background checks and political oppression. Many employers also oppose to the demonstrations and condemn the participants with unjustified dismissals. This comes from the hand of populist harassment and repudiation of many of the protests since a large part of the population opposes the causes of the protests, even though they may have a positive impact. This harassment and repudiation occurs after the existence of a conformist ideal instilled by the main political parties and the public education of the country.

Most of the protesters are university members of the state university called the University of Puerto Rico (UPR). These students represent an important social and economic force in the country, and use this power to defend their interests and the causes that they deem important. These university students besides of being students are also workers and suffer equally from the persecution that is lived in the country. Although in the last decades students have not suffered so much the ravages of such persecution, in the past they could even be expelled from the university and dismissed from their jobs.

Since the prosecution of the demonstrators began by the government and then by other agencies and private companies, protesters opted for anonymity. Covering their faces and their body, as well as other parts of their body that could be recognized, it was one of the most effective tactics to avoid being silenced. This technique is still being used, over time it has proven to be the most effective of all. Despite current social movements to decriminalize demonstrations, there continues to be an oppression to the right of free expression by government agencies and public corporations to some demonstrators. That is why some individuals opt for anonymity to make themselves heard without there being any repression of their causes. Although today’s society gives protesters protection against retaliation for exercising their right to free expression, many choose to avoid bad times and decide to hide behind the hoods. As long as there is some kind of oppression or threat of reprisals against these individuals, the society of the hooded will continue to exist.

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