Colombian police used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse protesters in Bogota, detaining over 70 people. In a culmination of the ‘Week of Indignation,’ over 30,000 Colombians marched in the nation’s main cities and condemned social inequality.
At least eight people were injured after police clashed with demonstrators in the nation's capital. One person was reportedly charged with assaulting a police officer.
Bogota saw almost 5,000 activists take to the streets, some sporting the masks of hacktivist group Anonymous. The protests ranged from students demanding lower tuition fees to political organizations calling for a peaceful dialogue between infamous guerrilla group FARC and the Colombian government.
The demonstrations were the final day of what was dubbed the 'Week of Indignation' by leftist political group Patriotic March.
Violence erupted when thousands of marchers neared the center of Bogota. Some protesters hurled stones at police, who retaliated with gas grenades and water cannons.
Colombian Interior Minister Fernando Carrillo condemned the violence, and said he regretted that some individuals exploited the protests to commit acts of violence. “It goes without saying that we support these social institutions’ right to protest, however we regret the fact that there have been isolated acts of violence,” Carrillo said.
Colombian authorities reported that at least 500 Bogota businesses were damaged by graffiti, stones and makeshift explosives during the protests.
Elsewhere in Colombia, nonviolent protests and marches were reported in 25 of the country’s 32 provinces.
David Florez, spokesperson for protest organizers Patriotic March, said that the demonstrations were a message to the Colombian government to push for peace with FARC, prior to negotiations with the group due to start in Oslo on October 17.
“The possibility of peace in Colombia can only be achieved through an active dialogue with the Colombian people, there can be no peace while Colombia continues to be the most unjust country in the world,” Florez argued.
Members of Colombia’s many indigenous ethnic groups, who make up some 1.3 million of the country’s population, also participated in the marches to protest against discrimination.
In recognition of their plight, the President of Colombia apologized on Friday for the many abuses suffered by indigenous Amazonian communities at the hands of rubber companies a century ago.
“I apologize for your dead, for your orphans, for the victims,” the Colombian Head of State said, lamenting the fact that the Colombian government did nothing to curb the abuses of the so-called ‘rubber barons,’ who killed up to 100,000 people in the area, according to indigenous leaders.
President Juan Manuel Santos’ apology coincided with the 'Day of Race,' when Colombians commemorate the anniversary of the arrival of Christopher Columbus (October 12, 1492) in the Americas and the beginning of colonialism on the continent.