Tens of thousands defy oppressive weather and government ban in Santiago and take to the streets.
CNN put the number of marchers at around 50, 000, organizers at 100,000, but there was no disputing some figures. Below 6°C, sleet, patches of snow, wind and rain.
Marchers chanted and danced to raise spirits and ward of the cold, giving the event a festive feel. As they danced, thousands of umbrellas pulsated in unison, leading to the protest being dubbed ‘the march of the umbrellas.’
Student organizers had stressed that they wanted the march to be a peaceful and they were largely successful. Sitio Quiltro saw no clashes between police and protestors.
However there was a heavy police presence and moments of high tension, and there were still people selling lemons, which are used to ward of the effects of teargas.
The march was only permitted until 2 p.m. After that the crowd began dispersing, but the streets were still full of chanting for hours afterwards.
At least 50 fully armed riot police stood at Metro O’Higgins, forcing the thousands of commuters entering and leaving to do so in single file.
Hundreds – possibly thousands – more riot police were in the streets, with upwards of 50 armoured trucks, water-cannons and vans. Mounted police patrolled the streets and a helicopter hovered above the scene.
In contrast to the march on August the 4th – when it seemed that anyone who raised a banner was teargas target practice for Caribineros – the police were restrained, claiming that they only fired one tear gas canister and made 6 arrests. For this they congratulated the students.
Perhaps it was a victory for student organizers – who managed to control the protest and avoid violent clashes- or perhaps it was a result of the growing criticisms of heavy handed police tactics.
An alternative explanation for the absence of violence was put forward on Facebook this afternoon by Cristóbal Cordóva Duránon – “The encapuchados clearly demonstrated their convictions today: a little cold and they stay at home.”
The peaceful nature of the march stood in stark contrast to scenes that took place in the early hours of the morning. Radio Cooperativa reported that up to 20 encapuchados erected barricades and set tyres on fire in front of the University of Chile.
The President of the Association of Teachers, Jaime Gajardo, said that 240, 000 people marched across the whole country.