The voice of oppressed people

They will call me subversive: and I will tell them: “I am. For my struggling people, I live. With my people on the march, I walk”. (Father Casaldàliga)

For several days, thousands of Colombian citizens have been taking to the streets in the main cities of the country to march peacefully and express their dissent over the tax reform. The reform represents a real guillotine for many families who are already paying, on one hand, the economic consequences of the pandemic and, on the other, the violence against social and environmental leaders perpetrated by neo-paramilitary units, the dissidence of the former FARC-EP and the ELN guerrillas which control many areas of the country thus hindering the possibility to live in peace.
From the beginning, the protests seemed the continuation of that cry for social justice and rule of law that had begun just a few months before the pandemic in Chile as well as in Colombia.

But no one would have never expected such a violent repression against the defenseless population by the police. The cities of Bogotà and Cali, in particular, flared up under the blows of sound bombs, tear gas and bullets fired at eye level by the police. The protest immediately turned into a tragedy, where human beings have become the target of the barbarism and the blind violence has ruled beyond rationality and good sense. Using the “excuse” to check some people responsible for acts of vandalism, the police have indiscriminately and violently repressed the demonstrators to the point that, according to the information collected by some Human Rights agencies, over 30 civilians and 2 policemen died, more than 90 people disappeared, hundreds of arbitrary arrests occurred and more than 1000 persons remained injured.
But the voice of the oppressed ones has risen even more and with all their might to call for the attention of the international community and all Human Rights organizations.
After three days of protests, upon the announcement that the tax reform would have probably be withdrawn, people kept on standing there, demanding dignity and justice for the death of so many innocent people, but also showing the world how the State and the police have been attacking their own people instead of protecting them. Horror scenes where innocent people who walk peacefully fall down under the gunshots fired by the police; especially young people, brutally beaten in front of their unarmed friends and families, arbitrary arrests and disappearances.
Rifle shots, threats and insults did not even spare all those who were monitoring the situation. The UN Verification Mission, the Catholic Church together with other organizations and Human Rights Defenders were attacked in Cali while they were verifying the conditions of some arrested protesters.
The appeal made by the parents of Santiago Murillo, who was murdered during the protests in Ibaguè, was heartbreaking. They prevented their son’s friends from meeting each other to commemorate Santiago so that the police would have had no excuse to provoke, to attack or to kill them. Santiago's mother pleaded with her son's young friends not to resort to violence and to keep calm; an appeal that breaks, with the power of tears and love for our neighbours, an endless chain of violence thus raising awareness among desperate people of what can really save them: nonviolence indeed.
Masters of such ethical and moral superiority are the members of the Peace Community who mark their destiny through their choices, even if they are violated by the strong powers day after day; hatred, violence and revenge do not even inhabit the most hidden corners of their hearts and minds.

This is how the oppressed people live, showing their right to freely express dissent, willing to carry on the struggle even for those who cannot do it; a constant march towards the future that will not come tomorrow, because it is already come today, representing a break between those who choose the good and those who choose the evil.

Photo Observatorio de Realidades Sociales de la Arquidiócesis de Cali