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Reportback: A night of protests in Bucaramanga, Colombia – Banners, helmets and masks, posters, rags and badges, Resistance!

Bucaramanga. Colombia. May 20. 2021. The collective outcry of thousands of people who have filled the streets of the main cities and different municipalities of Colombia for 23 days echoes from the walls of houses, buildings, the asphalt of the streets and government institutions.

Originally published by Colombia Informa. Translated by  Riot Turtle.

In the city of parks, the city they call “Bonita”, where the band that accompanies the parades plays arengas and cumbias, on May 20 in Bucaramanga fire and torches illuminated the path and the songs of those who express their nonconformity with the current government. All of them, with dignified rage, demand a stop to the genocide against the people, guarantees for a dignified life, education and health instead of arms.

That evening, as the sun falls behind the mountains, the torches are lit on Bolivar’s Horse. The
demonstration advances along Carrera 27 towards the Mesón de los Bucaros. The crowd move their feet amidst speeches and chants.

Between the park, the Mesón and the clinic, a party begins. People sing and dance with joyful rebellion, the faces of the people who are present, reflect the hope of a better country in which we all fit in the mix of our diversity.

There is a lot of resilience, our feet are not tired and the demonstration continues towards the Puerta del Sol. The voices are getting louder and louder, the band doesn’t stop playing and the people keep on dancing and chanting RESISTANCE!

It is almost 9 pm, the dark night is beginning and, despite the horrors that have been experienced in all the cities after this hour, the people are still determined and fighting. Resistance!

Reports are coming in. Black-clad armored squads are planning to attack the demonstration. Some are preparing to resist with metal and wooden shields to withstand grenades and gunfire. Resistance!

There are a few minutes of anxiety and then the shots are fired. The first gas grenades are coming through the air. The people retreat and the ESMAD (Colombian riot cops) attack with force and brutality without caring about anything. They even shot at the medical brigade and the Human Rights team.

People disperse through different streets in panic, trying to regroup to avoid being easy targets for the police. They quickly think about where to go to be safe and decide to return to the point where the demo started.
At a fast pace they advance, the band plays to ease the fear but in the distance they see the red and blue lights of the police motorcycles. They follow us closely.

Resistance!

Reports of injuries and arrests continue to come in. The medical brigade is helping those who need it along the way and some try to barricade themselves at the back of the demonstration. It is after 10 p.m. and everybody wants to return home safe and sound.

When we arrive at Caballo de Bolivar there is an apparent calm. People disperse and return to their homes. In the end, the Human Rights bulletin reports ten illegal arrests, the number of people injured is unknown.

It is almost midnight. When it finally seems that one more day of National Strike is over, a couple of videos start to rotate on social networks. They show scenes of horror that remind us of the violence we have lived through for decades. Men in civilian clothes kidnap demonstrators returning to their homes and take them away in private cars. The terror on the faces of those kidnapped, the fear and confusion of those who watch them and scream for them not to be taken away, the anxiety and helplessness of those who now see what is happening through a screen. The horrible night has not yet ended.


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