Tens of thousands of people participated in demonstrations in urban centers across the country on Monday, September 21, against government policies and perceived police brutality. In Bogotá, reports suggest sit-ins and demonstrations were held in at least eight locations, including a convoy of vehicles led by trade unionists. The demonstrations were organized by the National Strike Committee, an umbrella association of student organizations, labour unions, and indigenous organizations, and the marches passed off peacefully in most cities, except in the capital Bogotá. Reports indicate that demonstrators gathered peacefully at Plaza de Bolívar and ended violently after a group of participants attacked riot police. A handful of hooded individuals reportedly threw stones at members of the police outside the Palace of Justice. Police responded by firing tear gas and protesters were dispersed. A number of demonstrators were detained.
Further associated demonstrations are possible in the medium term. A heightened security presence and associated disruptions should be anticipated at all protests.
The protests follow the death of law student Javier Ordonez. Ordonez died after being tasered and forcibly subdued by police officers whilst being arrested for alleged breaches of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions in Bogotá on September 8. Although the Bogotá Metropolitan Police Department has expressed regrets over the death and suspended two of the officers involved pending an investigation, video footage showing officers subduing Ordonez has been widely shared on social media in the country and drawn significant condemnation.
Those in Bogotá, and urban centers across Colombia, are advised to closely monitor developments, avoid all protests and large public gatherings as a precaution, and adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities.
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