SANTIAGO – During protests in the center of Santiago, riot police pushed a 16-year-old protester into the Mapocho river. Footage on social media shows that during a police charge, a policeman pushed the minor over the railings. The boy was rushed to the hospital and does not have life-threatening injuries.
October, a month of historic importance for Chile, is off to a grim start. During protests on Santiago’s Baquedano Square, dubbed Dignity Square by protesters, a policeman pushed a 16-year-old protester off a bridge into the Mapocho river below. The boy fell several meters before hitting the shallow river. Bystanders had to pull him out, and by that time he was unconscious. He was rushed to the hospital immediately. His condition is now stable, human rights watchers confirmed.
Footage posted on social media by Telesur-correspondent Paola Dragnic shows that the boy did not fall but was pushed by policeman during a charge. All parties of the Chilean opposition and the National Institute of Human Rights (INDH) have condemned the police actions in this regard. During the protests last year, Chilean police forces were held responsible for hundreds of human rights violations by several independent organizations, such as the Human Rights Office of the United Nations, Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International. However, only a handful of police officers were actually prosecuted and removed from the force.
Mario Rozas, general of the national Chilean police force, is seen as the primary responsible party. Shortly after footage of the boy getting pushed into the Mapocho river went viral, opposition sectors demanded his resignation. Christian Democrat representative Matías Walker said that Rozas is not the man to lead the police institution through the tense months to come, while former Interior Minister José Miguel Insulza pointed out that “the evidence is clear: a policeman pushes a young man from the bridge; that is a serious crime and the command must respond.”
In response, police spokespersons have referred to the dramatic incident as “an unfortunate accident.” They say police actions were necessary to control the large group that had gathered on Baquedano Square. “We want to emphasize strongly: a video, images that are on social networks, where they say that the police allegedly threw a minor into the bed of the Mapocho river. I want to deny it outright”, one spokesperson said. On Saturday morning, in a new statement, police officers claimed the minor had lost his balance, which caused him to fall.
Veo que mucha gente, incluyendo algunos medios, ponen en duda los videos donde se ve que lo empujan. Pero revisemos este. Si no lo empujaron y fue un accidente como dicen, ¿por qué arrancan? ¿Por qué no lo ayudan? Si no lo salva la gente, el cabro se muere. #NoSeCayoLoEmpujaron pic.twitter.com/rqWEgJxaeF
— Ignacio Basualto Morales (@IgnacioBasualto) October 3, 2020
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today. He worked in Colombia, Surinam and the Netherlands as reporter and works with international media during major events, like the social crisis, the elections and the Pope’s visit.