Thursday, August 11, 2011
Tuesday's march up close
Tuesday brought another wave of official marches for education across the country. Estimates of people marching in Santiago were between 70,000 and 150,000!
Valparaiso was smaller, but I would still put it in the tens of thousands. I decided to check it out. Here's some images and video from the march. Translation/explanations...
1) "No to profit. Free education now"
2) Tear gas mask in place
3) Lots of large puppets presided including a miner
4) Shops along the path had put down their shutters for security
5) Sign on person's back: "I owe $11,919,981". Which is around $25,000 USd. In Chile average income is between $5,000- $7,000 USd.
6) All ages at the march
7) The banner "Create Popular Sovereignty"
8) Cardboard loader truck read "Renationalization" and on the other side "Copper for Chileans" (as opposed to that which generates primarily foreign profit)
9) The immense size of march - as far a the eye could see down the street Pedro Montt
10) My favorite; (of which unfortunately I didn't get a picture) an enormous flag (the size of a basketball court) that was draped along the street. On top of it, someone dressed as a famous Chilean soccer player from the 70s taking penalty shots on someone dressed with the Presidential banner.
I'm starting to have a better grasp of the complex issues that have resulted in widespread dissatisfaction with the quality, cost and organization of the educational system. There's a great deal of support for the students, but there's no easy solution and this government and the students are a long way from reaching a comprehensive compromise. If students don't return to the classroom by August 31st (3 months after they closed down the schools and universities) then they will lose the academic year (regardless if they have already paid for it).
The march was very peaceful and even jubilant while I attended. They announced that there were support marches outside Chilean embassies in France, Argentina, and Uruguay. I left after seeing some young folks started breaking rocks in preparation for throwing. Things devolved shortly after that, with confrontations between the police and a certain element that became violent. I went back to the house and later picked up the kids from school, minutes before their school was engulfed in a cloud of teargas.
p.s. The chant on the video: "Lo que el pueblo necesita, es la educación gratuita, Porque el pueblo está cansado, de las leyes del estado" - what the people need is free education, the people are tired of the laws of this government.