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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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