SANTIAGO – Two weeks after Plaza Italia set the stage for a more-than-million-people march, the center of Santiago drew again hundreds of thousands of protesters on Friday night. After weeks of protests, the people have hardened and are more determined than ever to continue on their path to reforms. At the same time, confrontations took place with riot police throughout the city, leaving several buildings damaged.
Hundreds of thousands of Chileans protested on Plaza Italia in the capital of Santiago on Friday night, marking exactly three weeks of marches in Chile. Protesters have dubbed the emblematic square into Plaza de la Dignidad, or Dignity Square. Although as good as all cities across the country have joined the protests, this square has become the stage of a play without an end.
A dramatic play, with deaths, arrested- and injured people, injustice and outrage, emotions and struggles. Violence turned into rationality; peaceful marches produced debates (cabildos); and the governments’ response seems to have triggered more determination.
Where two weeks ago, over one million cheerful Chileans gathered on Plaza Italia, the atmosphere on Friday night was different. Inexperienced protesters had turned into hardened veterans, equipped with handkerchiefs and banners. Throats sore of screaming, eyes red of tear gas, fists in the air for a new Chile.
🔴AHORA – Manifestantes encienden sus celulares en medio de concentración en Plaza Italia.
— CNN Chile (@CNNChile) November 8, 2019
The Response of the Government
The stance of the Piñera administration in the last few days has only fueled the anger of the protesters. While the president convened the National Security Council and announced more security measures, independent human rights observers called for the Chilean police forces to stop shooting with shrapnel and rubber bullets. Alarming reports have come in of police deliberately shooting at the eyes of those marching, often leaving permanent damage. Protesters denounce the fact that few social reforms have been announced.
Although the majority of those marching on Friday night did so in a peaceful manner, on several points in the city confrontations erupted between rioters and authorities. The Pedro de Valdivia University burned, while the Asunción parish, built in 1976, was looted. Statues, pews and other material from the church was used for barricades.
— Mariano Reyes C (@MarianoIRC) November 8, 2019
Concepción and Other Cities
Most eyes have been on Santiago during the protests. In the meantime, cities throughout the country have seen their share of manifestations and violence. The second city of Chile, Concepción, has turned into a war zone where clashes between riot police and protesters are becoming normal. Buildings have been reduced to ashes, numerous stores have been looted and on dozens of protesters were arrested on Friday night.
In cities like Valdivia, Osorno, Valparaíso, La Serena and Arica thousands of people gathered for another day of marches, showing that these protests are nationwide and that from the deep south to the far north, Chileans are determined to march for a different Chile, a better future and, as the new name of Plaza Italia indicates: more dignity.
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.