Sunday, 5 July 2009

I predict a riot, 19 June 2009

As I walked through the gates of my hostel back in Santiago I bumped into the very excited Steve and Shaun Clegg who told me they were on their way to the river to watch the protest. They told me to come meet them down there.

A few days earlier I had seen a bit of a protest going on in the river bed, but it really wasn´t enough to draw crowds or get excited about.

In the hostel I found Mike watching the news, watching the riot unfold in a live news stream.

The riot was kicking off.

When I´d seen it the other day it was really calm. There were three policemen standing on the river bank and a couple of protestors down on the river bed who were camped out with banners and flags. I asked at the hostel what the protest was about and I was told that the people were protesting to demand financial support for the people of Santiago who were struggling to pay back their home loans in the current financial crisis. The rioters thought it was unjust that businesses were getting bail outs and they believed that the people deserved bail outs too.

On the news I could see the river where the protest was taking place, it was full of polic in riot gear and there were loads of protestors in the river shouting and throwing rocks. Mike told me that someone had just jumped from one of the bridges into the river.

For me this wasn´t great news... I was going to have to cut trhough the middle of all this in order to get to the hostel where I was staying with Pippa and Harri that night which was on the other side of the river. Great!

The protest had reached this new furious level because of the rain. You see, the river that runs through Santiago is quite wide, but the river itself is only a narrow stream. The river bed is the only land in the city of Santiago that belongs to the people. And so, the river bed is the only place where people can protest freely without being moved on by the police. But, once the river flow gets heavier (i.e. when there is rain) and the river bed starts to fill, the police are permitted to interact and move the protestors on.

The heavy, hideous rain that I had walked trhough in Valparaiso was equally heavy in Santiago and so there was fury on the streets of Santiago with the police and protestors clashing.

It was quite exciting to watch it on the telly knowing that it was all kicking off 400m down the road.

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