SANTIAGO – The last march of 2019 in the center of Santiago ended on Friday night in utter violence. One protester was electrocuted after falling into a construction pit and an important cultural center was burned down. Protesters claim police reppression has only increased in the last weeks.
During the ongoing social crisis in Chile, regular marches on Friday express the accumulation of anger built up during the week, fueled by reports on human rights violations, political dramas and provocative interviews. With the million-people-march on October 25 as absolute highlight, Fridays were in general key days during the protests.
The last Friday of a most historic year in Chile ended in tragedy and violence. To stop a possible march at Plaza Italia, hundreds of police had hermetically sealed all entrances to the emblematic square. But a diverse crowd of thousands of protesters showed up anyway and was welcomed by a rain of teargas canisters.
Following a loose protocol of shooting such grenades in the direction of everything that moves caused a devastating fire at art house cinema Cine Arte Alameda, after a teargas canister landed on its rooftop. Fire brigades that tried to extinguish the fire were shot at with pellets. Observers from the National Institute of Human Rights counted 80 injured protesters, often with head injuries from teargas canisters.
🔴 INDH se encuentra en la exPosta Central constatando el estado de personas heridas. Se informa el ingreso de una persona fallecida en en el contexto de una manifestación en Plaza Italia.
— INDH Chile (@inddhh) December 28, 2019
But the night turned even more grim as a protester died from electrocution after falling into a construction pit while fleeing the police. The body of Mauricio Fredes, a carpenter from one of Chile’s poorest neighborhoods, was lifted from the pit under applause from bystanders.
Fredes’ death increases the pressure on Carabineros chief Mauricio Rozas and on the metropolitan region’s governor, Felipe Guevara, whose administration took a hardline approach and keeps refusing demonstration permits. This refusal to allow demonstrations was also interrupting the memorial for Fredes, held on Saturday night.
His memorial site was trashed by Carabineros with a water cannon, or guanaco, while a 10-year-old girl was severely injured after being gassed by riot police. Currently, the girl is in a medically induced coma, with half of her body paralyzed.
Police today launched repeated attacks on mourners who’d gathered to pay respects to Mauricio Fredes, who died yday amid intense repression. Children and elderly people were among those in attendance. #PrimeraLinea #ChileDespierta pic.twitter.com/boJ4kE7bpH
— Nick MacWilliam (@NickMacWilliam) December 29, 2019
Photo’s of the Last March of 2019
Chile Today-photographer Nelson Quiroz was present at the last march of 2019 and made the following report.