Colombians protest on a day marred by riots

Bogota, Sep 21 (efe-epa).- Thousands of people took to the streets of Colombia’s main cities again Monday to protest against government policies, police brutality and violence on a mostly peaceful day that was marred by clashes between hooded men and police in the capital, Bogotá.

The day was convened by the National Unemployment Committee to reject the social and economic policies of the government of President Iván Duque, and the police violence in the death of Javier Ordóñez, a 46-year-old man who died in police custody on Sep. 9.

Likewise, protesters showed their rejection of the violence that affects the country, especially the massacres that this year have claimed the lives of dozens of people, and the murders of social leaders.

During the day, protesters held sit-ins and demonstrations in at least eight places in Bogotá, and took part in a convoy led by trade unionists who decorated their vehicles with balloons and Colombian flags.

These protests aimed to continue the massive demonstrations that took place in November, however there were no large mobilizations like in 2019.

The meeting point was the Plaza de Bolívar in Bogotá, where hundreds of people arrived early.

With chants and banners reading “Where are our rights?” and “For life and peace, never again war for the youth,” protesters approached the meeting point with slogans against police brutality and the government.

“You have to study, you have to study, whoever does not study is the National Police,” sang one of the groups.

However, complications arose when hooded people began to throw stones at members of the police outside the Palace of Justice.

Despite some protesters positioning themselves between the police and those wearing hoods, tensions grew and the Mobile Anti-Riot Squadron (Esmad) intervened, while a few meters away another group destroyed a Banco Caja Social office.

At that moment, the police squad fired tear gas and the protest was dispersed throughout the streets of the historic center of Bogotá.

“There was a criminal action against the Caja Social (…) which was vandalized, destroyed and occupied with the intention of stealing some elements,” said the director of the police, General Óscar Atehortúa.

Mayor Claudia López stated that after Esmad’s intervention, citizens would be able to demonstrate without difficulties in the Plaza de Bolívar, which did not happen as clashes continued in surrounding areas.

Representative to the Chamber, Katherine Miranda, of the Alianza Verde party, denounced that a policeman hit her on several occasions with his motorcycle.

“I am absolutely peaceful, with deep respect I asked them to explain to me why they attacked and wanted to take a young man to the CAI (Immediate Action Command). There a policeman hit me with his motorcycle on several occasions. We cannot continue to be victims of abuses of force,” said the congresswoman on Twitter.

In the Parque de Los Hippies, gatherers listened to bands of different genres that performed songs against violence and about nonconformity with the situation in the country.

Likewise, the Históricas group, a non-institutional committee of the Universidad de los Andes that seeks to reflect on gender issues, created graffiti on the ground that read: “The only wrong body is the armed body. How many more massacres?”

The text was accompanied by the image of three bodies with intertwining tree branches and leaves coming from their necks, while they painted fire around the feet.

Students and members of the Indigenous Guard gathered along El Dorado Avenue, one of the main avenues in the city, accompanied by a band that gave rhythm to the march.

On a viaduct on the avenue, the protesters hung a banner that read “Who gave the order to massacre young people in Bogotá?” along with portraits of Duque, former president Álvaro Uribe and General Atehortúa, as well as the minister of defense, Carlos Holmes Trujillo, and the Colombian ambassador to the United States, Francisco Santos.

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