PANGUIPULLI – The death of a street artist in Panguipulli after getting shot by police has unleashed violent protests in the southern town. The town hall burned down and other buildings were damaged. President Sebastián Piñera has called for an emergency meeting to discuss the events.
The video shows a man, dressed in black, cornered by two police officers. One officer shoots twice, without any apparent reason. Seconds later, the man, holding two blunt juggling knives, runs toward the officer that shot him. The officer fires three more rounds and the man collapses, dying on the spot.
The street artist was a well-known face in the small town of Panguipulli. He participated in pro-Mapuche marches, juggled his knives at traffic lights to earn some money, and entertained kids during neighborhood events. His death comes as a shock for the community. The viral video of his death represents yet another example of how the Chilean police is still using excessive force to control situations.
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Why the police and the street artist faced each other is still unknown. According to official reports, the man refused to cooperate with an identity check and when he charged in the direction of the officer, the cop acted in self-defense.
Many police officers committed human rights violations during the social uprising, but few have been held accountable in the aftermath. The resulting tension remains palpable, especially in the south, where the Mapuche and police are in perpetual conflict and the state’s occupation of ancestral lands is increasingly militarized. These troops have a history of killing and subsequent attempts at covering the crimes up, as the case of Camilo Catrillanca has shown most recently.
In Santiago and in Panguipulli protests erupted, with burning barricades on the streets and people chanting in the city centers. In Panguipulli, the local town hall was burned to the ground and several surrounding buildings were severely damaged. The next day, the mayor said police forces were nowhere to be seen as the building was set aflame.
Various opposition sectors have repeated their call for a complete reform of the Chilean police, as the violence and oppression seem to be rooted within the institution, a left-over from the Pinochet years. According to the opposition, the police hasn’t learned anything from the damning reports of human rights organizations such as Amnesty International or the UN, which detailed numerous atrocities.
On Saturday, President Sebastián Piñera and several ministers participated in an emergency meeting to discuss the death of the street artist and the protests that happened after. The investigations police arrested the officer who killed the man, he will remain in preventive custody until at least Monday.
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today.