SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: November 06, 2019

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):University of Atacama

Region & Country:Americas | Chile

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On November 6, 2019, Chile’s national police force (the “Carabineros”) reportedly clashed with students and fired tear gas and rubber pellets into the University of Atacama (UDA) during a protest.

UDA students had set up barricades and set fire to tires on a highway just outside the campus gates. The barricades resulted in significant traffic jams. When police arrived at the highway to direct traffic, students apparently retreated back into UDA’s campus. Police fired tear gas and rubber pellets through the university gates into the campus, injuring at least three students. One student was reportedly hospitalized and released later that day.

While the subject of the protest remains unclear, it occurred against the backdrop of nationwide demonstrations first prompted by a hike in transit fares and later encompassing broader socio-economic inequalities, including the cost of education and low wages. Protests were often marked by violence and vandalism, resulting in the establishment of a state of emergency and the deployment of the military. State security forces frequently used violent force against protesters. The protests resulted in 23 fatalities, roughly 2,000 injured, and over 1,500 arrests.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of violent force against students during a campus protest. While state authorities have a right to maintain order and ensure public safety, they must do so in a manner proportional to the situation and refrain from any unnecessary use of force that might endanger members of the higher education community or other civilians. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, violent force intended to restrict peaceful expressive activity undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.

*SAR identified this incident in data made publicly available by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED).