Tens of thousands fill Plaza de Santiago on the anniversary of protests in Chile
The central Plaza Italia in Santiago was taken over this Sunday by tens of thousands of people, who gathered to commemorate a year since the start of social protests in Chile demanding greater social equality.
The groups of protesters began to arrive from early until tens of thousands of people gathered in this place, which has become the epicenter of the protests that broke out on October 18, 2019.
Mostly young people but also families and elderly people came to this square, renamed by the protesters as 'Plaza of the Dignity', to commemorate the day that "Chile woke up" but also to meet again in a massive protests after months in that the pandemic imposed a pause in the Chilean demonstrations.
The demonstration took place a week before the historic plebiscite that will ask Chileans whether or not to change the Constitution inherited from the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990), one of the greatest triumphs of the social movement that emerged in the streets of Chile a year ago.
I come to celebrate something that I never imagined would happen in Chile after we recovered democracy, Olga Neira, a 68-year-old doctor who attended the demonstration with her daughter, told AFP.
We are a country with conditions to have decent pensions for the elderly, more dignified salaries and leave a better country for my grandson. This today is beautiful and next Sunday, even better!, She said, sure that they will win the "I approve" in the referendum.
Although the Police were guarding the place from early on, as the number of protesters grew, the troops were withdrawn from the symbolic square, covered with posters and flags. The vast majority of people wore their masks to prevent coronavirus and others to deal with tear gas.
It is beautiful, very good and positive. We have to unite; the people of Chile have to unite and we have to believe that we can do things, Viviana Donoso, a 43-year-old protester, told AFP.
Stalls selling food, water, soft drinks, were cheering with the demonstrators.
There were also several costumed characters who have become symbols in this year of protests, such as "Tía Pikachú" or "Corredinasaurio".
For Víctor Hugo de la Fuente, journalist and director of the Chilean edition of Le Monde Diplomatique, the feeling that prevailed in the first hours of the demonstration was of joy for the possibility of moving forward and achieving a more just and democratic Chile, he said to AFP.
The Police did not provide a figure on the number of people gathered.
President Sebastián Piñera, has been strongly questioned since this crisis began. He called for a peaceful demonstration and respecting health measures due to the pandemic, which in Chile has counted for 491,760 cases and 13,635 counted deaths.
But there is fear that at the end of the day the images of October 18, 2019, may be repeated, when after a call to carry out evasions in the payment of the subway for students, the day ended in a night of fury, with a dozen stations railway lines burned, buildings attacked, looting of shops and violent clashes.
In the middle of the pandemic, the Police announced that they would deploy some 40,000 officials to protect security. Additionally, by maintaining the state of emergency, the military could also take to the streets. The curfew begins at 11:00 p.m. local time.