As tens of thousands of protesters assembled in a central Santiago square on Sunday to observe the anniversary of a boycott that erupted out last year requesting greater equality in Chile, two churches were burned down.
In a plebiscite on whether to change the dictatorship-era constitution, the protest comes
only a week before Chileans vote, one of the major priorities when the protest movement started on October 18 , 2019.
Although the morning brought a mostly festive atmosphere to the Plaza Italia
demonstrations, the afternoon saw a number of instances of violence, looting, and destruction.
As helmeted protestors chanted, one church near Plaza Italia was burned to the ground,
while a second place of worship was ransacked and damaged by fire as well.
However, firefighters struggled to get the wildfire under control.
According to local media team, the small Church of the Assumption that was totally destroyed is known as the “artists’ parish,”.
In one Santiago district, there were clashes between groups of football hooligans, while
demonstrators in Plaza Italia doused a monument with red paint.
Daniel Jadue, the communist mayor of the neighborhood near the central square, was
hounded by demonstrators outside Plaza Italia.
Yet in the morning, when demonstrators, many wearing masks to protect against the
coronavirus pandemic, held up banners, sang and danced, it was a different feeling. Even
the police gradually withdrew from Plaza Italia.
“It’s great, very good and positive. They’re pure good things for Chile in everything from here,” demonstrator Viviana Donoso, 43, told AFP as she and a group of people danced to drums.
“The people of Chile need to unite, and we have to believe that we can do things.”
Some even turned up to the demonstration in fancy dress.
>>An ‘equitable Chile’ Hopes<<
For Victor Hugo de la Fuente, a reporter and director of the Chilean edition of Le Monde Diplomatique,
“the prospect of advancing and achieving a fairer and more democratic Chile” gave rise to joy within the demonstrators.
In order to “approve” the proposed constitutional amendment, protesters have called on their countrymen to vote.
“This is the opportunity to say enough! We’re here and we’re going to vote for ‘Approve,’”
Paulina Villarroel, a 29-year-old psychologist, told AFP.
The government of President Sebastian Pinera — one of the protesters’ main targets —
called on demonstrators to be pleasant and to respect coronavirus restrictions.
With more than 490,000 infected, the lethal epidemic left 13,600 Chileans dead.
Originally, demonstrations broke out a year ago as a response to increases in metro fares,
before skyrocketing into an overall demonstrations against injustice and the government.
A dozen metro stations were burned down on one night of protests, car parks were burned,
stores were robbed, buildings were desecrated, and demonstrators battled with police in riot gear who released tear gas and used plastic bullets.