Isabel Cocker/The Santiago Times Staff
SANTIAGO – A march through Chilean capital in support of Indigenous Peoples’ Day was broke up Monday by riot police, despite having official government permission to hold the rally.
The demonstration started with a speech and ceremony in Plaza Italia before moving down Alameda towards La Moneda.
The protesters had permission to use Alameda all the way to Los Héroes, however riot vans with water cannons and tear gas bombarded the marchers at the National Library – not even halfway to La Moneda.
The “Día de la Raza” is the day in which historically Christopher Columbus made landfall and first reached the Americas.
Although it has historically been celebrated as “Columbus Day”, it has more recently been celebrated as “Indigenous Peoples’ Day”.
Rising awareness of the oppression and mistreatment of the indigenous populations by Columbus and the resulting colonization has converted the day into one of recognition for the original tribal natives and their descendants.
In Chile, the Mapuche population and their treatment by the Chilean government and police have been much debated recently, with the government threatening to impose the Anti-Terrorism Law to combat protesters and activists in the Araucanía.
The Monday’s rally was therefore a place for all supporters of the Mapuche and other tribal people to act in peaceful protest against the recent mistreatment of prisoners and other Mapuche people.
The rallying cry was “No to the Anti-Terrorism Law”, and “Fight for Freedom”, however the protest started peacefully with groups of families and friends out with flags and banners to join the procession. The group was thousands-strong as it proceeded slowly along Alameda, chanting and dancing to the music of drum groups.
After the use of water cannons and tear gas at the Biblioteca Nacional, many families left the march, fearing further violence. The march proceeded towards La Moneda, and then towards La Republica, where it finished with a rallying cry from the spokesperson of Meli Wixan Mapu, an organisation for the support of indigenous peoples.
Police continued to use water cannons and gas to break up the remaining marchers, leading to arrests of protesters after some isolated incidents of vandalism.