On June 4, 2014, violent clashes between student protesters and state security agents broke out just outside the campus of the Metropolitan University in Caracas. Students from both Metropolitan University and nearby Santa María University had assembled to protest alleged police repression and arbitrary detention of their fellow students. The students burned tires and erected barricades blocking traffic. State security agents responded by firing tear gas and rubber bullets at the students, while the students launched fireworks, stones and debris at the officers. Five students were injured in the clashes. The protests are part of an ongoing pattern of unrest throughout Venezuela.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about violence on university campuses. State and university authorities, while they have a legitimate interest in maintaining order and protecting property, must do so in ways that are proportional to the situation, that respect peaceful expression, and that minimize the risk of physical injury. Use of excessive force in response to campus unrest unnecessarily increases risks of physical harm to individuals and undermines higher education functions, academic freedom and institutional autonomy. Similarly, while students have the right to free expression, that right does not extend to violence or the destruction of property; on-campus expression must be undertaken in a manner that is consistent with university values including social responsibility. Student violence against persons or property also creates unnecessary risks of physical harm to individuals and undermines higher education functions, academic freedom and institutional autonomy.