Boston-area demonstrators rally against economic inequality, brutality against protestors in Colombia

Antuan Castro Del Rio at the Colombians Demand Justice protest
Colombians Demand Justice organizer Antuan Castro Del Rio addresses demonstrators gathered at Government Center Saturday. Demonstrators marched through downtown Boston in opposition to military and police violence against protesters in Colombia. KAITO AU/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Demonstrators marched from Government Center to Copley Square Saturday to demand an end to the killings of protestors in Colombia by their government and its security forces. 

Organizations such as the Boston May Day Coalition, Massachusetts Peace Action and Colombianos por la Paz joined Colombians in the Greater Boston area in solidarity with the ongoing movement against “rampant inequality, poverty, inequality and bad economic policies” instituted by President Iván Duque’s government. 

“The Colombian community, especially in the area of New England, is huge,” Colombianos – New England organizer Felipe Aguirre said. “It’s very important to be out here because we want the world to really see what’s happening down in Colombia.” 

This latest mobilization on Saturday in Boston occurred nearly a month after protests began in Colombia. 

On April 15, the Colombian government proposed a tax reform bill that would “have affected all the basic needs of the poorest people in the country,” Aguirre said.

When Colombians started protesting the bill April 28, the government deployed troops in response to the unrest. At least 42 deaths have been reported by Colombia’s human rights agency. 

“We have people that are covering themselves from bombs and grenades, with shields that are made out of cardboard and wood,” Colombianos – New England organizer Antuan Castro Del Rio said. “We’re asking for a ceasefire from the Colombian government.”

Reports of disappearances and killings of protestors, as well as reports of live ammunition and tear gas being used against protestors in Colombia, has ignited an international response.

Mass demonstrations were organized in multiple cities across the globe, including New York, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, Paris and Barcelona. 

Aguirre said the protests were important in “making a statement” to the Colombian government. 

“We need to make this a visible issue,” Aguirre said. “We want to invite everyone, no matter where they’re from, to join us, to help us ask for a fair process and for the process in Colombia to be respected.” 

The protest at Copley Square featured speeches in both Spanish and English by representatives of Massachusetts Standing Up for Racial Justice, Colombianos por La Paz, Refuse Fascism and Freedom Fighters Coalition.

“We all need to unite against one common enemy, white supremacy,” Dhruba Sen of Massachusetts Standing Up for Racial Justice said at the protest.

Castro Del Rio highlighted the role the U.S. government plays in enabling violence in Colombia.

“We also need to understand who is selling these guns that are killing people,” Castro Del Rio said. “Who paid for the training of those militaries? … Let’s not forget that the U.S. gives funding to Colombia for military development.”

A crowd of more than a hundred people walked from Government Center to Copley Square shouting chants such as “Stop killing us” and “El pueblo unido jamás será vencido,” which translates to “The people united will never be defeated” in English. 

Protestors stopped twice along their route to share their solidarity with the Free Palestine movement, chanting: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.” 

At Copley Square, protestors sang the Colombian national anthem and held a moment of silence for those killed by the Colombian government.

Castro Del Rio also called for Duque to take the conditions the protestors in Columbia put forth seriously and meet with the National Strike Committee.

“[Then] we can move on in the country,” Castro Del Rio said. “We can come back to being a country that truly produces wealth for Colombians, and not only for a select group of people.”

Aguirre said the best way for Americans to help is by amplifying Colombian voices and donating to the cause. He said they could find more information on Colombianos – New England’s Instagram account.

“It’s always, always, always good to be able to empathize with the struggle of other people, whether it’s here in America, or anywhere else in the world,” Aguirre said in an interview. “We all are the working people and we all need to unite.”

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