This is what my democracy looks like (debrief at the end).
Here’s what happened: People got together in Plaza Italia (not clear if there were 30,000 throughout the length of Chile or 30,000 just in Santiago), then started marching down the Alameda. They were stopped by a line of police in riot gear, and the police announced at 7:05 PM that anyone not involved with the march should please leave, on several occasions. A full 20 minutes later, the first water cannon was fired. Water from water cannons (guanacos in local parlance) is not just water here in Chile, it usually has irritants in it. Here I wrote about one of my first experiences with this concoction.
Another 15 minutes later, more water, and this time with teargas canisters deployed. I had biked around from Plaza Italia to the backside of the protest, behind the police. After the teargas was shot (7:37 PM), I took off to go down to La Moneda where I knew, from a friend (and the miracle of cell phones), that a mass of people was collecting. There was singing, and chanting, some of it beautiful, some of it not. People from “las etnias” (indigenous representation, presumably Mapuche) arrived, dancing. We stood around, watching people light candles, eating empanadas and taking photos. In the end, what drove me away this time were a couple of bald-faced ne’er-do-wells, ripping down barriers, spray paint at the ready, (last photo, with graffiti that has nothing to do with this particular event), cagily checking out our bikes, getting drunk. I got home by 9:00, and could hear the shouting, the sirens until past 10. I tried to go out on the balcony to get a better view, but the tear gas drove me back inside.
More photos as always, on Flickr.
Great photos, thanks for sharing. It’s nice to see actual evidence of why my bus never made it through Plaza Italia. I finally gave up and just walked home.
Wow, this pictures are amazing. I really enjoy your blog. Read about your perspective as a foreign is very interesting for me (I’m chilean by the way, but I’m writting in english because I need to improve it). I live in downtown and I didn’t went to the protest. didn’t want to go actually. I really have shocking feelings about this kind of acts. I belive in the free speech, but I really think that is loosing my time go to street, risking my physycal integrity for a cause, when I really know that I’m not going to change anything. The desitions about this kind of projects are influenced with economic intreses and not only the principal enterpenour intereses, also the economical intereses of the oponents, other entrepreneurs. I think that this kind of protests are not effective….is a romantic way to try to change the world, but is not effective at all. The real challenge is be creatives and promote another kind of protest, a protest with facts, with actions, maybe in a silent way, but a protest after all. I remember that like 3 years ago here in chile the court forbid us to take the “pill after” (anti conception) and all the womans went out to the streets, in silence, we all continue with our lives but all of us wearing a white shirt over our suits. Everybody knew what that means, we were protesting, but without violence, without scream, without all the show. Just facts, and all the city was paying attention, all the city was paralized, but any cop and any authority can forbid us to wear a white shirt. That protest was effective.
patagonia sin represas!
That first sentence is what really makes me shake my head. I’m all for crowd control and punishing criminals and thugs, but surely there is a better way for a democratic society to manage mainly peaceful protests than to bring out the big guns (literally) at the slightest provocation.
I’m also interested to see what comes of these reports that the tear gas used here uses chemicals which are banned for use in other countries and which can cause abortions or damage reproductive organs. Is an entire generation going to have reproductive problems as a result of overexposure?
Emily, I couldn’t agree more (esp. first paragraph). That’s why I put that first sentence. It asks a lot of questions without saying anything. And yes, the toxic chemicals are very worrisome. I hope that gets further investigated, and some legislation is passed re: the same.
Great coverage and ace fotos. I am impressed by the scope of these protests, across the country and international ones planned for Friday.
Did you see the article about the suspension of use of the tear gas ‘due to health risks’?
I cynically wonder if it’s more to protect the health of the police as opposed to the folk that get sprayed with it….I hope it’s for both.
Thanks for the photo/post love, mandita.
I did, and I tweeted it (about the tear gas). One day I will get my tweets up on my blog, for some reason it has been beyond the scope of my tech ability of late. But yes, it was weird to see that they’re stopping using the tear gas. i wonder what’s next? tasers? Kidding, mostly. I won’t be there on the 21st to see, but will be tuning into the citizen media, so I hope you’ll let me know what’s going on. I can’t believe how naive I was about the teargas, actually. I thought it was just caustic, not poisonous.
Hey! I linked to your blog through Global Voices. I liked it a lot ! So count me in as a follower from now on. 😀 I’m also an expat in Chile, so I can relate to a lot to your perspective of this awesome country.
I have two posts in Global Voices regarding Hidroaysen (one already in English and the other in Spanish waiting for translation). I’ll continue the coverage (definitevely, going to the May 21st protest) so, I’m wondering if I can use any of your pics & or comments in my post (of course, with the due credit) In case you want to check them out, here are the links:
Hi Elizabeth, yep, I saw you on twitter and did a little investigation (how could I not!). I would love to catch up with you personally, but I’m out of town for a bit (a long bit!), which you’ll see on my blog. Glad to have you along for the ride. Also, sure, use pics of the protests with links back to here. It’d be quicker to just take the ones from the blog, as the ones on flickr are sort of “theft-protected.” If you want ones on flickr, talk to me and I’ll try to get them to you quickly. Feel free to quote me as well. Link love for a good cause. I adore global voices, went to the conference last May, and wish they were coming back.
Keep in touch!
Hola-Do you know of any organization (organized, non-profit) that one can contribute to stopping this project in Aysen?