On March 6, 2017, police reportedly clashed violently with students at the University of Los Andes, Liria (ULA), in an attempt to retrieve public buses allegedly stolen by students as part of a protest. Three students were reportedly injured.
Sources indicate that a group of students at ULA stole several public buses and parked them on the ULA-Liria campus to protest a recent reform of the public transit ticketing system, which the students claim has left them unable to use their student passes. The students demanded meetings with representatives of the transportation union and the Urban Transportation Fund in exchange for the buses. That afternoon, clashes broke out between students and police when the latter arrived to retrieve the buses. Police reportedly opened fire on students protesting their arrival in the Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences. Three students were injured, with one hospitalized after being shot in the head.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about violence on campus. While state authorities have a legitimate interest in maintaining order and protecting property, they must do so in ways that are proportional to the situation, minimize the risk of physical injury, and otherwise respect the right to free expression. Use of excessive force in response to campus protest unnecessarily increases the risk of physical harm to individuals and undermines academic freedom and institutional autonomy. Likewise, while students have the right to free expression and assembly, those rights must be exercised in a manner that is consistent with university values including non-violence and social responsibility.