The central Plaza Italia in Santiago was taken over this Sunday by tens of thousands of people, who gathered to commemorate a year since the beginning of social protests in Chile demanding greater social equality, in a mostly festive climate overshadowed by some incidents.
The groups of protesters began to arrive from early until tens of thousands of people gathered in this place, which has become the epicenter of the protests that broke out on October 18, 2019.
Mostly young people but also families and older people came to this square, renamed by protesters as “Plaza de la Dignidad”, to commemorate the day that “Chile woke up” but also to meet again in a massive protests after months in that the pandemic imposed a pause in the Chilean demonstrations.
The demonstration takes place a week before the historic plebiscite that will ask Chileans whether or not to change the Constitution inherited from the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990), one of the greatest triumphs of the social movement that emerged in the streets of Chile. a year ago.
“I come to celebrate something that I never imagined would happen in Chile after we recovered democracy,” Olga Neira, a 68-year-old doctor who was attending the demonstration with her daughter, told AFP.
“We are a country with conditions to have decent pensions for the elderly, more decent salaries and leave a better country for my grandson. This today is beautiful and next Sunday, even better!”, She said, sure that she will win the “I approve” in the referendum.
Although the Police were guarding the place from early on, as the number of protesters grew, the troops were withdrawn from the symbolic square, covered with posters and flags. The vast majority of people wore their masks to prevent coronavirus and others to deal with tear gas.
“It is beautiful, very good and positive (…) We have to unite; the people of Chile have to unite and we have to believe that we can do things,” Viviana Donoso, a 43-year-old protester, told AFP. who, together with a group of friends, jumped to the rhythm of the drums that did not stop beating in the center of the square.
Stalls selling food, water, soft drinks and all the items traditionally sold in street demonstrations, such as goggles or handkerchiefs, also encouraged this great concentration.
There were also several costumed characters who have become symbols in this year of protests, such as “Tía Pikachú” or “Corredinasaurio”.
For Víctor Hugo de la Fuente, journalist and director of the Chilean edition of Le Monde Diplomatique, the feeling that predominated in the first hours of the demonstration was of joy “for the possibility of moving forward and achieving a more just and democratic Chile,” he said. to AFP.
– Incidents –
Early on, a group repainted the statue of General Baquedano that dominates the square red, as had already happened on Friday and after it was repainted by authorities. Daniel Jadue, communist mayor of the Recoleta neighborhood, near Plaza Italia, was also shouted out.
In the afternoon, groups of brave bars clashed violently in another sector. Also, the San Francisco de Borja Church was sacked and suffered a fire that was quickly controlled.
Consulted by AFP, the Police did not provide a figure on the number of people gathered.
The government of President Sebastián Piñera, strongly questioned since this crisis began, the most important in 30 years of democracy, called for a peaceful demonstration and respecting health measures due to the pandemic, which in Chile leaves 491,760 cases and 13,635 deaths confirmed.
But there is fear that at the end of the day the images of October 18, 2019 may be repeated, when after a call to carry out evasions in the payment of the subway for students the day ended in a night of fury, with a dozen stations of the railroad burned, buildings attacked, looting of shops and violent clashes.
In the middle of the pandemic, the Police announced that they would deploy some 40,000 officials to protect security. Additionally, by maintaining the state of emergency, the military could also take to the streets. The curfew begins at 11:00 p.m. local time (02:00 GMT, Monday).
apg-pb / pa / dga / lda