|Monday, 17 August 2009|
Victim’s Autopsy Report Casts Doubts On Police Self-Defence Claim
Sirens and tear gas filled the air near Metro (subway) Los Heroes in central Santiago Friday night as police and protestors clashed over the recent death of a young Mapuche during a confrontation with police in Region IX.
According to the autopsy, Jaime Mendoza Collío, 24, was shot in the back while trying to occupy a Region IX farm with 50 others who claimed ancestral ownership of the land. The autopsy results caused doubts of the initial police reports, which claimed that officer Patricio Jara Muñoz shot the victim in self-defense (ST, Aug. 14 ).
The Santiago protest ricocheted for two hours up and down Alameda Ave. (a major artery in central Santiago), pitting the protestors – Mapuche and otherwise – against police and Special Forces who attempted to shut down the “unauthorized” protest at all cost. The protest was one of several demonstrations occurring over the weekend throughout the country, including at least two more in Santiago – in Cerro Santa Lucia and Universidad de Chile, Macul campus.
“Asesinos!” (“Killers!”) was the rallying cry from many protesters, who threw everything they could find – primarily rocks and bottles– at the police. People held up pictures of Mendoza Collío, crying and yelling at the police.
Police responded harshly, chasing offenders or walking in packs, most often with nightsticks or smoke grenades in hand, toward the shouting demonstrators. The police wore thick body armor that stuck out from thick bulletproof vests in order to cover their arms and legs. Many held riot shields.
Protesters and pedestrians alike ran from the onslaught of the fire hose, which scuttled groups with its powerful jets from dark, metal-plated trucks roaming the streets.
Many pedestrians, students, and workers in the area hid in nearby businesses and schools to avoid the tear gas bombs, often covering their faces with scarves, shirts or whatever they could get their hands on to protect themselves from the burning smoke while running from one refuge to the next. Pedestrians unlucky enough to be on Alameda Ave. received heavy doses of the gas – their eyes red and burning as they ran away.
Protesters spilled into the street at several times, knocking over streets signs and slamming buses and police vehicles with sticks and other weapons, and then scattering as a fresh tear gas grenade exploded at their feet.
One protester began pounding a police truck with a large stick, only to get a face-full of smoke moments later.
“Asesinos! Matan por la espalda!” (Murderers! They shoot people in the back!”) one young woman yelled at a group of passing Carabineros (Chile’s uniformed police), prompting them to chase her down and drag her, kicking and screaming, to the nearest police van.
“She didn’t do anything! She’s just a kid!” yelled Carmen Ñamcuvil, a Mapuche protester, who pulled at police, trying to pull her friend out of the police van. The arrested youth, a 20-year-old Chilean student later identified as Kristel Hernandez, was one of many detained in the clash.
Every police arrest brought a mass of people, including dozens with still and video cameras, to surround the spot, documenting every second as the police pushed people into police buses.
“[The detained] are going to go down to the station and probably be home within 2-3 hours,” said Lt. Mauricio Barreos, an officer with the Special Forces. “It’s a minor offence. Not like people who we caught holding Molotov cocktails.”
“It’s horrible, horrible for both of us,” Barreos said, gesturing to Ñamcuvil, who was standing by the bus holding her friend. “In my unit, three or four have ended up with broken arms.”
Barreo estimated there were 1,000 police officers – 500 normal police and 500 Special Forces – on the streets of Santiago on Friday afternoon.
By Daniel Zarchy ( firstname.lastname@example.org)