SANTIAGO — Metro station protests continue. In fact, they have only become even more strident and aggressive despite government warnings and an increased police presence. There is currently no end in sight.
The protests at the Metro stations grew even larger Oct. 16-18 and resulted in a frenzy in many locations. According to CNN, there have been 52 cases of “mass evasion” between Oct. 7 and 15.
Police estimate that over 40 people were arrested on Oct. 17 alone, during the mass evasion.
Although many Metro stations were overrun with protesters, a few saw more serious incidents on Oct.17.
In Santa Lucía station, a large group of students broke through a closed gate and stormed the station, celebrating once they avoided the turnstiles. In this video, police avoid the oncoming wave of people and passively watching the incident unfold.
Este video es uno de los más hermosos del día, esta es la respuesta para quienes acusan a este movimiento de violento. Que vivan lxs estudiantes y la desobediencia civil organizada ¡Con todo y con todxs! #EvasiónTodoElDía #EvasionMasiva @GloriaHutt pic.twitter.com/QcCUlxMFSC
— Felipe Parada (@FelipeParadaM) October 17, 2019
In another video, people rallied together at Plaza de Maipú station and chanted while raising their fists in defiance, in front of a group of police officers.
— Fernán (@fernanvaras) October 17, 2019
At San Joaquín protesters destroyed turnstiles and Bip! Card readers, as another video shows.
— Gonzalo Suazo Vecino (@GonzaloSuazo_) October 17, 2019
Reaction From the Authorities
The government continues to condemn the protests.
In an interview with Radio Agricultura, President Piñera once again spoke about the consequences protesters will face. “[T]he people who attacked the police and were destructive, are going to have to face justice.”
In reference to the destruction of Metro property, the president commented, “it is one thing to protest but the vandalism we have observed is another thing.”
Piñera also spoke about those who are supporting the Metro protests and encouraging others to keep going. “We cannot tolerate the existence of a group that believes that it has the right to destroy public property.”
Minister General Secretary of the Chilean Government and spokeswoman Cecilia Pérez made a statement on Oct. 17, describing the protesters as “delinquents.” “Violence is not justifiable, delinquency is not justifiable, not obeying the law is not justifiable and destroying our country’s public transport is not justifiable,” she said.
Metro Workers and Police Officers
Speaking to Cooperativa, former director of Metropolitan Public Transport Guillermo Muñoz expressed his opinion on the most recent fare increase on Oct. 6, saying that it “penalizes the poorest.”
He also empathized with the fury felt by many Chileans but questioned the method of protest. He said that it is “a legitimate anger that is expressed by students and people in general, but I think there are other ways to channel that anger.”
The Federation of Metro Trade Unions made a statement on Oct. 17 about the recent protests. The president of the federation emphasized that “Metro workers are not the enemies of the students, and we understand that the students are not the enemies of Metro workers.”
In its statement, the Federation also strongly rejects the “militarization” of the Metro due to police presence and instead wishes to encourage conversation between the protesters and the government.
According to sources from Cooperativa, the protests have forced police to regroup in order to focus on the metro stations. Allegedly, even officers from Valparaíso and the Naval Special Forces are arriving in Santiago to support the Metropolitan police force.
The police force denies this allegation and claims that officers are simply being deployed from different units.
Young People on Social Media
On Oct. 18, the hashtag #EvasionMasivaTodoElDia was trending throughout the day, encouraging people to protest all day long and not just at specific times.
An interview with a law student about the metro protests has gained a lot of attention. Bessy Gallardo gave an interview to Channel 13’s “Bienvenidos” which resonated with Chileans to the extent that “Bessy” became a trending topic on Twitter.
Gallardo spoke out in support of the mass evasion, saying that it is “a legitimate form of protest.” She expressed her disapproval of the police’s use of tear gas and argued that the police have a “constitutional obligation to protect human rights.”
Her time on the TV show resonated with many young Chileans across social media, who have been tweeting their support for her message.
Lo que parlamentarios que llevan 1,2 3,4,5 o más periodos no saben explicar y menos quieren abordar, desde el confort que entrega recibir 9 palos mensuales mas prebendas, hoy gente como Bessy Gallardo en 2 minutos te lo deja claro.#EvasionTodoElDia
¡ Ya les llegará su hora ! https://t.co/b3iXFPdhgS
— Jorge Campos S. (@Choroy_Traiguen) October 18, 2019
Ana Truesdale is a British student, studying Liberal Arts at Durham Univeristy, who is currently interning at Chile Today on her year abroad. She has a strong interest in Latin American culture and journalism and wishes to experience all that Chile has to offer.