On October 24, 2019, police and the Mobile Anti-Rioting Squad (ESMAD) reportedly clashed with students and unidentified, hooded individuals at the University of Atlántico (UA) during a campus demonstration.
UA students held a sit-in in a campus building to commemorate the thirteenth anniversary of an explosion on campus that killed four students. During the sit-in, a group of unidentified hooded individuals reportedly raided the campus, stole university computers, and damaged campus property, including starting fires in two rooms.
At the authorization of UA’s rector, police and ESMAD officers reportedly confronted and fired tear gas at the hooded individuals and students, who retaliated by throwing stones at police and ESMAD. Police reportedly arrested several of the hooded individuals and students.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about violence and destruction of property during a campus protest. While students have the rights to freedom of expression and assembly, they have an obligation to exercise such rights peacefully and responsibly; likewise, state authorities must take measures to maintain a safe campus space, refrain from responding disproportionately to conflict on campus, and work to de-escalate potentially volatile situations. Violence during campus protests undermines academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.