A confrontation between police and protesters outside the University of Costa Rica (UCR) on Thursday night resulted in seven people facing charges, including for crimes of fire and explosives.
The incident occurred after dozens of students had blocked traffic on a road outside the Law School in response to a proposed law they claim will weaken public education in Costa Rica.
But what had been a nonviolent demonstration turned quickly at about 10 p.m. Thursday when National Police and Transit Police approached in an effort to clear the road.
“There was a direct aggression against police who found themselves in the area,” said Daniel Calderón, General Director of the National Police. “At that point, police had to intervene.”
During the confrontation, Calderón says, protestors acted violently against police. In at least one instance, the official said, demonstrators splashed gasoline on an officer and tried to light it on fire.
Video shared by the Public Security Ministry (MSP) shows a line of fire spanning the road:
“There was a moment when some of these people splashed gas on officials and tried to set it on fire,” Calderón said. “It’s very lamentable what occurred here.”
About an hour after the operation began, National Police had cleared the road, seized several materials — including large rocks, metal objects and containers of gasoline — and detained six people, three men and three women.
A seventh person was later detained.
All seven have been charged with crimes of fire or explosives, obstruction of a roadway or resisting an officer, according to the Chief Prosector’s Office. They were released Friday but must comply with precautionary measures throughout the criminal process.
In a statement, UCR said it has not been able to establish whether the detained people were students, faculty or otherwise associated with the University.
“The only people who have access to that information are the parties and their defense attorneys,” the UCR statement read.
Costa Rica’s President, Carlos Alvarado, condemned the incident in a message shared via his social media channels.
“Spraying gasoline on a public roadway to threaten the lives of National Police officials who were reestablishing free transit is inadmissible,” Alvarado wrote.