COLOMBIA. Bogota. In the past two weeks, the South American nation saw a violent turn of events that ended with 13 protesters being killed and 248 injured on 10 Sept. due to an excessive police response.
Unfortunately, the original message of the protests has been lost in a splash of savage media imagery. The recent demonstrations which garnered media infamy were the second stage in a series of anti-corruption, brutality, and government reform protests that began on 21 Nov. 2019.
“They are murdering our dreams”
Colombian native Jessica Barrera is passionate about change in her country and with good reason. “In recent years, there have been 1,900 lawsuits filed against the police for brutality,” she explained in a Transcontinental Times interview.
“A citizen who was just a little drunk was arrested and beaten to death by the police,” she said concerning the events leading up to the brutal incident on 10 Sept. “Many human rights organizations and university students met to protest this police abuse.”
Further describing the use of excessive force by the police in her country, she proclaimed, “They are murdering our dreams.”
We didn´t start the fire
“There are many reasons for the protests,” Jessica added when discussing the nationwide protests that began on 21 Nov. of last year, which were put on hold due to COVID-19.
“Children, university students, indigenous leaders, and environmentalists have been murdered. All of this has happened and has been concealed,” she explained when describing a series of atrocities that ignited public outrage. “These massacres have occurred during 2020 and the (10 Sept.) protest was the break of our silence.”
“We are a country that wants to express our disagreement with the political leaders and new policies that were made to oppress us,” She added.
Back on 2 Sept. 2019, there was a government-sanctioned bombing of an area that allegedly contained members of the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC). However, after an investigation by Indepaz, it was revealed that the 18 people who were killed in the airstrike were innocent children unrelated to the FARC revolutionaries.
Compounding the growing list of horrors is the staggering number of indigenous leaders who´ve been killed. In just four years, 289 leaders of indigenous communities have been murdered, 40 of which happened in 2020. Much of this has to do with the continued exploitation of land resources, especially in Amazonia, by the government and foreign corporations.
“According to Global Witness, our country has the highest number of environmentalist murders,” Jessica added grimly.
The United Nations Human Rights Council has documented 33 massacres in the country just this year.
Standing up for change without violence
Jessica maintains the anti-corruption demonstrations have always been peaceful. ”The media shows a country that protests in a violent way, but it´s not actually like this. We go out with songs, signs asking for peace and respecting equality, but the use of guns and the bad actions of the police made it turn in a violent way,” she explained.
Angry citizens have taken a stand against corruption, but their message was twisted by a clever trick of misdirection. This way, the untrained eye fails to focus on the criminal actions of the government and police.
“The government is killing farmers and afterward, they want to style themselves as heroes. They say there are people who died because they were part of the FARC, which is a lie,” Jessica emphasized.
She also added, “We don´t want to be a symbol of violence in the world.”
While Jessica admits there may be some bad apples who show up at the protests with criminal intent, the majority arrive with only the best intentions.
It remains to be seen how the government will respond to their people´s pleas for change, justice, and equitable treatment.