Monday, April 23, 2012

The Polemical 'Patriotic March'

'No to Mining Exploitation in Colombia.'
Scenes from today's 'Marcha Patriotica for the Second and Definitive Independence.'

The march was controversial because of suggestions that it had been backed, and perhaps even organized, by the FARC guerrillas. The military reported finding messages in a captured guerrilla computer calling for such a protest rally on around this date - altho march organizers rejected any suggestion of guerrilla relations.

It's not unusual for far-left groups' demands to coincide with the guerrillas', and even for these groups to sympathize with the guerrillas, as a look at the graffiti on the National University's campus will show.

But, guerrilla connection or not, it's a good thing to let these marches happen. The participants are undoubtedly sincere, and many of their calls for social justice, environmental protections and minority rights are certainly justified. Prohibiting such a march would only give the guerrillas ammunition to the guerrillas' attacks on the government as 'fascist' and 'oppresive' - even tho criticizing the FARC in guerrilla-controlled territory would be very dangerous to your health.

Police's top priority: Save McDonald's!
Some of the protesters asked us not to show their
 faces, so I've covered up some features. But I believe that their fears are exaggerated. It is true that social activism can be dangerous in Colombia. However, I doubt anybody would suffer reprisals just for participating in a mass march. And, if someone with bad intent did want to identify protesters, it'd be easy enough to film them unseen with a high-powered camera from inside a neighboring building.

Like most leftist demonstrations here, this one included a real grab-bag of organizations: unions, indigenous groups, communists and anti-globalization/anti-capitalism activists.

Che Guevara's a must in any leftist event. 

The protest march was big, but peaceful. 
Does this man's colorful headware contain a political message?

Police motorcycles lined up for action. 
Afterwards, a packed and soggy Ave. Septima. 
After the march, indigenous women walk down Seventh Ave. 

Cleaning up afterwards in the National Park, the march's staging area. 

A local government building on Seventh Ave., still covered with paint ball marks from last year's student protests. 

Here's how Che Guevara looked today, Monday, on the National University's central plaza. 

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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