On Love and Other Demons: Bogota Protests in Photos

Despite continuing crackdowns, protests stretch on in Colombia

Joshua Collins
Dec 5 · 5 min read
Astronaut with Colombian/Peace Flag leading a march during the National Strike in Bogota, Colombia (photo: Joshua Collins)

Bogota- National protests in Bogota extend into their third week with yet another National Strike on the 4th of December.

After an initial heavy handed response from riot police, a military enforced curfew and a number of deaths, including Dilan Cruz 17 who has become a symbol for the movement, police have backed off.

They still launch tear-gas indiscriminately at peaceful protests of course, all over the country in fact, but compared the horrific violence of the initial marches, protests are running peacefully.

More so than the first day, when police attacked the Universidad Nacional in a siege that lasted six hours.

The violent tactics of the government have led to a fascinating reaction from the people — the protests have become parties as a defense against repression.

“They can’t call it a riot if we’re dancing,” one protester told me.

Riot police, called ESMAD watch approaching protesters on Nov 21st (photo: Joshua Collins)
Riot police attacked the Universidad Nacional on Nov 21st in a barrage of tear-gas that engulfed 20 square blocks (photos: Joshua Collins)

Since then, the protests have taken on a festive vibe. It’s because Colombians love a party of course, but it’s also so ESMAD, the riot police here, have less excuse to shoot them with riot shotguns.

An officer from ESMAD. firing at protesters (photo: Joshua Collins)

Human rights groups criticized the actions of the government, whch has continued to try and demonize protesters as “vandals”, “communists” and “Venezuelan infiltrators” in absolutely untrue statements that are making life more difficult for Venezuelan immigrants.

Ninety-percent of the violence I have seen was initiated by police, and I have been on the front lines daily.

Nowadays however, Bogota is a party as drummers, dancers, costumed activists and mobile parties take the streets in true Colombian fashion.

Drummers perform outside of Universidad Nacional on Nov 21st (photo: Joshua Collins)
Acrobats perform suspended from an over pass in Bogota Colombia on Nov 21st (photo: Joshua Collins)
A protester with a mock-up of Senator Uribe, whose party is a target for ongoing protests. “The poverty, war and misery are a source of wealth” says the sign (photo Joshua Collins)

The marches are now roving carnivals, and the nights are filled with the sound of cacerolazos, a traditional Latin American protest of banging pots in a gesture of solidarity with those in the streets.

Just as often, these demonstrations evolve into drum circles and dance parties.

And the signs may be bitingly critical of President Ivan Duque, but they’re laced with humor and sarcasm as well.

“Afraid? The only thing I’m afraid of is my mother’s sandal” (photo: Joshua Collins)
ESMAD officers with shields that have been splattered with paint balloons in the Colombian National Colors (photo: Joshua Collins)

The protests are set to continue, strike organizers and the government have not been able to come to an accord, with the government calling the protesters demands “impossible”.

They may be hoping the strikers lose energy, but so far that has not happened. On Dec 4th tens-of-thousands took to the streets in a protest that had been organized only the day before in reaction to president Duque’s refusal to meet with the Union and student leaders alone.

ACUNC, a afro-colombian organization from Cauca, travelled to the capital to join the protests on Dec 4th (photo: Joshua Collins)

The protests were joined on Dec 4th by indigenous groups, and Afro-Colombian social organizations from the state of Cauca, in response to the government’s continuing failure to live up to it’s promises on the 2016 peace accord.

And sympathetic demonstrations were held in virtually every city in Colombia.

Marchers walk in to Plaza Bolivar, the seat of government in Bogota, Colombia Dec 4th (Photo: Joshua Collins)

Bogota, Cali and Medellin were all sites of large manifestations, and between them they generate 50% of the GDP for this South American nation.

The strikes are having an impact.

Left: Duque is often called a puppet of ex-president Uribe, right: students rushing to join a protest (photos: Joshua Collins)

President Ivan Duque, who is widely seen as a puppet of ex-president Uribe, and who currently holds a 30% approval rating, finds himself besieged as the strike drags on.

The military has been pulled off the street, but the government refuses to listen to protester demands to not deploy riot police and sporadic violence continues.

A protester stands on a statue of Simon Bolivar, waving Chilean and Argentinian flags (Photo: Joshua Collins)

With a free mega-concert scheduled for Dec 8th in support of the cause, the protests are unlikely to end anytime soon.

I just hope the police can find their vibe as well as the protesters have; maybe some dance lessons are in order.

Joshua Collins is a freelance reporter based in Bogota Colombia. For more stories you can follow him on twitter

Acrobats perform Nov 21st for protesters in Bogota, Colombia (photo: Joshua Collins)

Muros Invisibles

Latin American News from the front lines

Joshua Collins

Written by

A reporter on immigration and world affairs, based in Cucuta, Colombia. Bylines at Al Jazeera, Caracas Chronicles, New Humanitarian and more

Muros Invisibles

Latin American News from the front lines

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