Bogotá. Colombia. May 24. 2021. “You are a liar, talking shit. The cops are breaking into houses every night and gassing without caring if there are children, elderly or sick” a protester at the Portal de la Resistencia (Portal Américas) said to the Secretary of the Government of Bogotá, Luis Ernesto Gómez, after he did not accept any responsibility for the abuses that have been committed against protesters during the National Strike at this location.
The Portal de la Resistencia is located in the southwest of Bogotá. It is connected by Transmilenio to the districts of Kennedy and Bosa, one of the most densely populated in the city and home to some of the most impoverished neighborhoods.
During the National Strike the Portal of Resistance has served as a meeting and organization space. This gathering of people has developed organizational processes such as the humanitarian space “Al calor de la olla”, created as a place for meetings, discussions and cultural actions, but also community pots to feed protesters and other passersby. Pre-Hospital Attention Points -APH- have also been set up there to care for injured people. Everything has been self-managed and organized in a peaceful and community-based manner.
This contrasts with the way the police and the Mobile Anti-riot Squad (“Esmad”) have treated the community protests at Portal, since they have not only confronted peaceful demonstrations, but have also set up an operations center inside the Transmilenio facilities where they store weapons and detain demonstrators. There have even been denouncements of acts of torture carried out by the security forces at this police station.
On Friday, May 21 (the 23rd day of the mobilizations), a dialogue was initiated between the Secretary of Government and the demonstrators. There, they demanded respect for the humanitarian space, the withdrawal of the Esmad and the dismantling of the operations center that the security forces installed in the police station. In addition, the demonstrators mentioned points that allude to the national list of demands such as a universal basic income, as well as the de-escalation of the violence that night after night has resulted in injuries, assassinations and disappearances.
After each intervention, the government secretary acknowledged the excessive use of violence by the police, but did not take any responsibility. Thus, he gave no explanation for the actions of the police, which is worrisome if one understands that the district authorities should be accountable for the actions of the police in the city. Nor was it possible to reach any kind of agreement regarding the withdrawal of the uniformed forces from the humanitarian shelter.
Finally, the secretary and other officials of the mayor’s office withdrew from the dialogue talks. Later, the police again attacked demonstrators who, for yet another night, resisted the attacks by the uniformed forces and the 5 armored vehicles that arrived on the scene.
The Portal of Resistance has become an important site of the National Strike because, on the one hand, it has been one of the points where constant and cruel acts of repression have taken place. All these denunciations have been made thanks to the reports of human rights organizations and alternative media that have accompanied the demonstrators every night.
On the other hand, thousands of people continue to arrive daily to participate in the protest activities and to carry out creative actions that, with dignified rage, continue to enrich this collective humanitarian space on a daily basis.