Bogota- The city has endured three days of increasingly violent street battles between police, Protests in the capital city of Colombia sparked a military curfew, three deaths, indiscriminate tear gas volleys and a critically wounded teenager as national protests escalated.
Last night, however, was partying for peace.
The government withdrew the army from the streets and protesters continued their nightly ritual of the cazerolazo, banging pots and dancing in the streets in support of the national strike.
And it was a hell of a party. The cazerolazos were staged all over the city, in parks, busy intersections, public squares and even in front of the residence of Colombian president Ivan Duque.
Similar mobilizations happened in every city in Colombia.
Considering the city woke up Saturday morning under emergency military curfew, it was a defiant response to recent harsh actions of Colombian state forces.
Protesters and Police Clash
Starting on November 31st, police have been responding forcefully to protests; citing vandalism and instigation among the crowds. But as the protests continued, response from state forces became more aggressive.
Three people have died in the clashes. Friday night an emergency curfew was announced and the military deployed after violent riots in Suba, a neighborhood in the south of Bogota.
Saturday, police gassed a crowd in a downtown square as they sang the Colombian national anthem as well as indiscriminately fired riot weapons on a peaceful demonstration at Parque Nacional.
This was following riots on Thursday and Friday in the south and west of the city, before the government declared an emergency military-enforced curfew from 9 pm- 5 am.
The biggest symbol of police violence has become a young man named Dylan Cruz, 18, who was gravely injured when tear gas canister struck him in the face. Videos of medics resuscitating the unconscious youth went viral almost immediately on Colombian social media (Warning: graphic image).
Protesters now carry placards at the demonstrations referencing the incident, and it is sure to be a prominent symbol in marches planned for the coming week.
“I voted for Duque,” said Alejandro Ramirez, 22, at one of the street parties. “but I realized that he isn’t for the poor, only the rich. His buddies are robbing the everything from the country.”
What to Watch
President Duque pulled the army off the street and announced Saturday that he is willing to negotiate with protests leaders in an official statement.
Organizers of the national strike have called for more marches Monday, disrupting the capital once again. The behavior of both sides will be heavily scrutinized as actors on all sides of the social conflict push their narrative.
But the government seems for the moment to have realized that a heavy hand and more gaffes will only empower and popularize the diverse coalition of protesters in the streets.
Whether they choose to wait for the energy of the popular movement to subside or put an end to it with force will be a tipping point in the coming week.
In the meantime, the cazerolazos continue nightly, and Bogota is full of the sounds of resistance.
Joshua Collins is a freelance reporter based in Bogota Colombia. For more stories you can follow him on twitter