Anti War Protests
"On Thursday 20 March 150 ECOPETROL (state oil corporation) workers accompanied by union leaders from the CUT and a number of activists held a protest outside the ECO-PETROL offices in Bogotá. They sang and chanted against the Uribe Velez government’s support for the war in Iraq, against US intervention and for peace in our country, and also against Chevron-Texaco taking the gas in the Guajira region of Colombia. US flags were burnt and the traffic held up for a while, before the workers returned to work."
"On Friday 21 March there was a march against the bloody genocide in Iraq. Groups like the (trotskyist) PST, (anarchist) Banderas Negras, students, workers and many more who support the right to life gathered in Catastro at 11 a.m. and marched towards the U.S. embassy, displaying our anti war messages and carrying out civil disobedience to open people's eyes as to what is going on. Earlier on North Americans Against the War, local Christian pacifists and a theatre group had all arrived outside the embassy, bringing the total present up to about 200. We moved slowly in order to tie up the traffic on Calle 26, whistling and applauding as more people joined the march. Squads of riot police were there (ESMAD and others) as always, prepared for anything, not realizing it was a peaceful march. Having said that, we were hoping to occupy the pedestrian bridge outside the embassy when we got there, but the robocops prevented us. Onlookers in their apartments or from passing cars raised their arms or beeped in support."
"Arriving at Carrera 50 we took up the area behind the embassy, blocking the road so that the traffic would pile up and people would notice us. And three hours after the march had begun we were back on Calle 26 where we blocked the road again for some minutes in order for a little ceremony to round things off for the day. Some people had brought a 6×4 metre large American flag made from newspaper which we poured petrol over. Before burning it a student spoke to those present saying: For some this flag means liberty and democracy but for others bloodshed, fear and destruction. We’re going to burn it so they know we don’t want them in Iraq, or here, or anywhere else in the world. For 20 seconds people spat on, trampled on and kicked the flag as it burned. We then dispersed, concerned that one of the riot squads might be round the corner waiting to detain someone, but everyone stuck together in their groups." *
Protest at the war in Iraq and the Colombian government’s support for it has multiplied in Colombia in recent days. The protests have linked the invasion to the war in Colombia and cutbacks in social spending and services.
Bogotá. More than 15,000 people marched again last Thursday (27 March) from the Central Administrativo Distrital to the US Embassy in opposition to the attack on Iraq and U.S. intervention in Colombia. The blue block of uniformed telephone exchange workers stood out visually amongst the unions, women’s organizations, students, teachers, artists and political movements (FSP, MODEP, MOIR, PTC, PPS, PST, Unios, MRPM, Banderas Negras, VA, MRI, PCC), all united against the imperialist war. The march left at midday and began arriving at the embassy at 13.10. People refused to disperse until around 2pm when the amount of teargas became too much and the police had started to surround some of the young people present, arresting 17 of them. Clashes ensued. Rubber bullets injured one young woman in the eye and a photo journalist in the leg. Two photographers from international agencies denounced the fact that they were beaten. After the march was dissolved some people leaving it occupied a petrol station. This march followed a symbolic display of black umbrellas by 1,000 people two days previously.
On Thursday 27 the town of Sincelejo became what local newspaper El Universal called “the first city on the Carribean coast to protest against the war on Iraq”, stating that 4,000 people took part in one of the biggest ever protests in the Sucre region. The day began with a gathering of employees of the Family Welfare Institute (ICBF) and their supporters, striking that day against cutbacks and redundancies in that body. They were joined by unpaid local schoolteachers, who had also called a day strike, local school students, parents and other public sector workers. At the same time in the nearby municipality of Coloso (Montes de Maria) employees of the ICBF’s children’s homes denounced delays in receiving vital food supplies due to the army’s labourious checks on incoming vehicles – part of the security measures ordered because they are in one of Colombia’s “Rehabilitation Zones”. These are areas where the government has suspended civil liberties and increased repression in the name of the war on the guerrillas. These restrictions make the protests held even more impressive.
On Friday 30, 700 university students and teachers marched through central Bogotá. The rain didn’t deter twenty students from taking off all their clothes in front of TV cameras along the way, and accusing President Uribe of being a “terrorist” and a “sellout” as they did so. They rallied in a park, where speakers denounced armed conflict whether in Colombia or abroad, stating “we are saturated by war”. The march tried to head for the presidential palace but decided to avoid a full head on clash with the large number of riot police, who along with regular police had accompanied the event from the start.
Elsewhere on the same day 5,000 members of indigenous communities from the department of Cauca blocked the Pan American highway for several hours to protest the problems they have faced locally as well as the war on Iraq.
* Photos, and from reports that first appeared in full in http://colombia.indymedia.org/