Peruvian police carry out violent raid on Lima’s San Marcos University

Scores of police raided a university in Lima on Saturday, smashed in the gates with an armored vehicle, fired tear gas and arrested more than 200 people who had come to the Peruvian capital to take part in anti-government protests.

Pictures showed dozens of people lying face down on the ground after the surprise police operation at San Marcos University. Students told the Guardian that they were pushed, kicked and beaten with batons as they were forced out of their dormitories.

The police raid on San Marcos University – the oldest in America – is the latest in a series of insults fueling growing calls for President Dina Boluarte to resign after six weeks of unrest that have killed 60 people and at least 580 injured were arrested more than 500.

Demonstrations began in early December in support of ousted former President Pedro Castillo but have overwhelmingly shifted to demanding Boluarte’s resignation, the closure of Congress and new elections. Boluarte was Castillo’s vice president, replacing him after he tried to shut down Congress and rule by decree on December 7.

People arrested at the University of San Marcos campus in Lima.People arrested at the University of San Marcos campus in Lima. Photo: Juan Mandamiento/AFP/Getty Images

Many of those arrested in Saturday’s raid had traveled to the capital from southern Peru to take part in a demonstration last Thursday dubbed the “Takeover of Lima,” which began peacefully but between protesters and riot police amid rock-throwing and whirlwinds degenerated tear gas.

In an opinion to TwitterThe Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights called on the Peruvian authorities to “respect the legality and proportionality of the [police] Intervention and Due Process Guarantees”. It stressed the importance of the presence of prosecutors who were absent during the first hours of the raid.

Students living in dormitories said they were forcibly evicted from their rooms by armed police officers, breaking down doors and pushing and kicking them out.

Esteban Godofredo, a 20-year-old political science student, received medical treatment for injuries to his leg. “He hit me with his stick and he threw me to the ground and started kicking me,” Godofredo told the Guardian as he sat on the front lawn of the residence with a badly injured, bandaged right calf.

Student Esteban Godofredo is being treated for leg injuriesStudent Esteban Godofredo is being treated for leg injuries. Photo: Dan Collyns/The Guardian

Videos seen by the Guardian showed confused and frightened students gathering outside their halls, some still in their pajamas, while riot police shouted orders and insults. Young men were forced to stand against a wall or kneel in a row.

“They pointed their guns at us and shouted ‘Get out!’ We didn’t even have time to get our IDs,” said Jenny Fuentes, 20, a student teacher. “They made us kneel. A lot of the girls were crying but they told us to shut up.”

“They didn’t tell us why we were evicted from our rooms,” she said. The group of about 90 students who stayed on campus to work and study during the summer break were then marched to the main courtyard, a 10-minute walk away, where the other individuals had been arrested.

For several hours after the raid, they were not allowed to return to their rooms, which were searched by the police.

Items that Peruvian police said belonged to arrested protesters who were staying at the University of San Marcos campus in Lima.Items that Peruvian police said belonged to arrested protesters who were staying at the University of San Marcos campus in Lima. Photo: Dan Collyns/The Guardian

“I was a student in San Marcos [University] and we haven’t seen such outrage since the 1980s,” Susel Paredes, a congresswoman, told the Guardian as she was prevented from entering the campus by a cordon of police.

“The police entered the dorm, the rooms of the students who had nothing to do with the demonstrators. They threatened them and took them out of their rooms while they slept.”

Paredes said it was a throwback to regular police and military raids on the public university in the 1980s and 90s, when the campus was seen as a hotbed of subversion during the state’s conflict with Mao-inspired Shining Path rebels.

“We are not in that period, we are supposedly under a democratic government that should respect fundamental rights,” Paredes said.

Amid the demonstrations and with roadblocks paralyzing much of the country, Peruvian authorities on Saturday ordered the closure “until further notice” of the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail leading to the World Heritage archaeological site – Peru’s number one tourist attraction with more than 1 million visitors a year.