Violent protests in Bogotá leave 7 confirmed dead

By Emma Newbery September 10, 2020

Seven die overnight as protests over police brutality spread across the capital.

7 deaths reported after a night of violent protests against police brutality.
7 civilian deaths reported after a night of violent protests against police brutality. Photo: Anonymous.

Violent protests rocked the capital last night as anger over police brutality spread through Bogotá. By the morning seven people had been killed and almost 150 injured. Five of those deaths were in Bogotá and two in Soacha.

A vigil for Javier Ordóñez who died on Tuesday night after being repeatedly tasered by police boiled over into violent protest. Videos circulated on social media of two policemen tasering the 43-year-old lawyer as they held him on the ground.

It is not an isolated incident. Bogotá’s mayor, Claudia López said yesterday that there have been 137 reported cases of police abuse this year alone. And just 38 of those have been investigated.

“We reject this case of police abuse and all the cases that have been presented throughout the year,” she said. “Javier’s case is not an isolated case, these cases of violence and police abuse are recurring behaviour.”

It is not only the police abuse of power that is being called into question. It’s also their use of so-called non-lethal force. 

In May, 24-year-old Anderson Arboleda died after being beaten by police in Cauca. Last year, 18-year-old Dilan Cruz died after being hit by a tear gas canister fired by riot police. 

As the city awakes to scenes of burned-out buses and TransMilenio stations, the mayor’s calls for police reform may seem like a distant hope to those who want change. 

How much damage was done last night?

In total, over 50 police CAIs were damaged in Colombia last night, mostly in Bogotá but also in Cali and Valle de Cauca. Many were set on fire, including Villa Luz (where the vigil for Javier Ordóñez took place), La Gaitana, El Rincón, Porvenir, Techo, Tintal and Britalia. 

Windows were smashed in the TransMilenio stations of Ciudad Jardín, San Mateo, Terreros, Bosa, and Portal Suba. Over 130 TransMilenio and SITP buses were vandalised or set alight and this morning stations in Soacha were closed due to the damage to the vehicles and road.

What now? 

After more than five months of stricter lockdown measures than many cities around the world, tensions are running high. We’ve seen an increase in marches and peaceful protests in recent weeks as citizens grapple with months of lost income and stress. 

López has called for calm, stressing that violence won’t achieve anything. “Destroying Bogotá will not fix the Police. Destroying us won’t fix anything. Let’s focus on achieving justice and structural reform for the security forces,” she tweeted in the early hours of this morning.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Defense Carlos Holmes Trujillo said that an additional 1,600 uniformed personnel would support the police in Bogotá along with 300 soldiers. He offered a reward of COP$50 million for information that leads to the capture of those responsible for the deaths.

Such a significant increase in military presence may reflect the fear that authorities cannot pour oil on troubled waters. In fact, with so much anger directed at the police, attempts to forcibly quell the violence may only fuel the fire.