“There were so many people on the street, during the day, it was very peaceful, it was very joyful, it was wonderful… But in the night time things got heavy again, with unconfirmed numbers killed”
Eyewitness from Cali, Colombia. 2nd May 2021
In the last two hours [President] Duque has announced the withdrawal of the Reforma, which is obviously a huge victory for the strike, massive, massive. And it was something that he definitely did not want to do, so it’s a huge moment, but the pressure now is, how does the strike keep going? Because on the one hand, Duque said that he was going to withdraw it, but the threat is still there.
But now there’s also a push, the indigenous movement have already come out to say that the Minga continues until Duque resigns, and they want other social movements follow the same path. The student movement has come out and said something similar, so it’s an interesting time, there’s a lot of debate going on today around what’s going to follow, but it looks like the strike will continue.
Yesterday in Cali was something that even the most veteran of activists are saying that has never been seen. It’s quite hard to encapsulate, or articulate in words, what it felt like. It would be a conservative estimate to say that half a million people were out on the street protesting yesterday in Cali, and, rather than one single march, the dynamic has been a little bit similar to what happened in the paro civico in Buenaventura [nearby port, in 2019], with puntos de concentracion, concentration points round the city where roads are blocked and where there are daily protests and gatherings.
So many people! It was a bit chaotic, there wasn’t one single gathering, but there were marches almost in every single direction coming and meeting each other, then going off in another direction.
This was all the more incredible, because the day before yesterday, Friday, had been the most violent day in Cali. Seven confirmed and up to as many as fourteen people were killed by police. Huge amounts of really heavy violence with army on the streets, but it was the police who were doing the shooting.
So it was an even more amazing response that people came out yesterday, in such numbers, in such a marvellous way. Because there were so many people on the street, during the day, it was very peaceful, it was very joyful, it was wonderful. But in the night time things got heavy again, with unconfirmed numbers killed; with tanquetas, big armoured vans, going around, police on motorbikes going around, picking people off who they could find and either beating them up or arresting them etc.
The human rights situation is drastic, really urgent, but at the same time, a huge moment that the reform has been withdrawn, and we’re really waiting to see what comes next. Even the photos don’t do justice to what has happened over the last few days.
There’s been a lot of tear gas flying about, we’re all a bit choked out from all the tear gas that’s been going, but I don’t think anyone was quite expecting just the level of participation that Cali would have, in all demographics, all sectors of the city: a lot of people who were clearly not usually involved in protests, or joining in, so really amazing stuff.