POLITICS
07/06/2010 12:55 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Puerto Rico Protests: Government Probe To Investigate Civil Rights Abuses

Puerto Rico's civil rights commission has launched a probe to investigate last week's police riots at the commonwealth's Capitol.

The commission, announced Sunday, will be led by Judge Crisanta Gonzalez and comprised of members appointed by the governor as it investigates possible civil rights violations during Wednesday's riots.

Clashes broke out when university students and other protesters tried to gain access to the legislature to voice their opposition to budget cuts and other policies of Gov. Luis Fortuno. Police formed a blockade, shooting pepper spray into the crowds and reportedly beating civilians with batons.

In the wake of the violence, Mary Kay Henry, the new head of the Service Employees International Union, pledged that the more than 2.2 million members of SEIU, many of whom live in or were born in Puerto Rico, will call upon their elected representatives in Congress to fully investigate the events of June 30.

Lawmakers heard those calls, watched footage from the events, and responded. On Friday, New York Democrat Nydia M. Velázquez condemned the violence in San Juan, calling for an independent investigation.

"The violent images that are being circulated through the Internet cannot bring anything but sorrow for the people injured and concern for the democratic values that the Puerto Rican society has historically cherished," said Velázquez in a statement. "It is my hope that all sides refrain from provoking violence and that an investigation be carried out swiftly and thoroughly to determine any abuses of authority by law enforcement officers."