Snow Fails to Dampen Students’ Enthusiasm

18 Aug

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.

Police Presence

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.

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3 Responses to “Snow Fails to Dampen Students’ Enthusiasm”

  1. Camila August 18, 2011 at 22:23 #

    The absence of violence was definitely not due do an increase in police scrutiny, you can watch (on TVN channel) little old ladies, professors and large groups of students confronting the small groups of encapuchados with resources that spanned from umbrellas waving to heated discussions online.
    I support the “lemons against the encapuchados”, a growing technique were students throw lemons at the violent minorities who had until today been able to stain the majority of student movements.

  2. Rodrigo H. Avaria Saldias August 24, 2011 at 07:56 #

    Joe, read what I told to Cristobal About ” Encapuchados “, a lot of them are students to & they know that they are not always welcome. They were on the street earlier than any other that day, maybe cause they understand that there is space for all kind of manifestation, including peaceful ones.

    • Joe Hinchliffe August 24, 2011 at 14:05 #

      Ok you are right Rodrigo, there were other protests that day that involved ‘encapuchados.’ I will edit this post to address this.
      I think this raises a bunch of interesting questions:
      Were there no instances of violence at the ‘march of the umbrellas’ because the ‘encapuchados’ decided to allow that protest to be peaceful and not because other students or police prevented them from acts of violence? Do some ‘encapuchados’ believe in violence as a means to achieve positive change, or are they simply delinquents and opportunists as the media and government would have us believe? Do some students march openly and peacefully in some cases and hooded and violently in others?
      What do you think? I would be interested in writing an article about this if you know anywhere I could find out more information or better yet anyone I could talk to.
      As always, if you want to write an article I’d be more than happy to post it!

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