Tear gas, rhythm and fire
I’m sitting in downtown Santiago, mostly avoiding breathing tear gas, inside a hostel. I thought I could help by connecting out some more.
It’s pretty energetic outside. I’m close to the centre of the city having picked this place so I could walk to the Transformations 2019 conference. The conference was wonderful. You all really need to come to the next one!
However, Santiago is on fire at the moment—figuratively and literally.
First is what’s been happening from my view—500m from Place Italia. Second, loosely, why I think it is relevant/entwined with benevolutionaries and transformation—the idea of substantial and deep shifts, embracing the pain and hope, affecting how we make sense of the world together, our shared assumptions (modern-day story about how the world works), economies, political systems and technological change in quantum meaningful leaps.
The catalyst here was a price hike that took metro costs to 20% of a weekly family income. It was quiet then suddenly….:
Friday night, earlier in the night when I left the street, it felt only delightfully mad :—). There was no tear gas or police near me (as there was for others) and just a bunch of protest. The whole place was alive, be bë be be bee be, chunk chun chunk shunk chung chung, Clang cla clang Clang clang clang: pot lids, car horns, clapping, water gallon drums with fork drumsticks, stamping, marching, whistling, loud and constant.
It felt more like a festival than a protest: young, families, babies, all present.
I was at a restaurant on a side street. Then the local ice cream moped turned up and tried to compete with his jingle. The whole place (restaurant) cracked up laughing. 90% of the diners had been joining in when protests pieces came past. Ahhhhhh, cities 🙂 ❤️
It got a lot noisier through the night. Garbage bonfires went up in the street junction just down the road from my hostel. Metro stations got burnt and trains. We shut down the last conference meeting halfway through Saturday to get back to hotels etc. safely. By the afternoon it was getting wild outside of where I’m staying. Roadblocks from burning / burnt out buses on all the major intersections right next to the hostel, folks smashing their way into shops, looting, pulling up pavement and using it as rocks to smash non-broken bus windows, toppling over traffic lights, roadblocks on the corner helping to shut down the Place Italia to troops and carabinieri. And then there were people simply out walking, kind of celebrating and hanging out at the roadblocks, not worrying anyone on foot/bikes.
Sometimes it was quite bizarre. A full riot squad and armored vans firing teargas on the other side of the street. People walking casually past on my side of the street (I was inside!). Tank armored cars loaded with troops, large-caliber machine cannons, rolling past in convoys. 5 plus at a time.
And, I really like this city. I empathize with the protests too. The young guy who checked me in here came through last night saying he’s so proud of everyone, waking up, never seen anything like it, he says, in his lifetime. At the same time the buses and trains are devastated—people who can afford cars will be ok… For those with longer memories I’d imagine it is, to say the least, quite difficult—a Pinochet era law not used like this since then. That’s very present—part of the conference was in repurposed Pinochet police building finally back in use as part of the university. Those buildings were one of the main torture centers.
Sometimes it’s emotionally overwhelming. I feel like crying (and do) for the hope and pain within all of this, for everyone here.
By tonight, Sunday, its upped a notch. There are huge crowds (filmed from TV helicopters) in the streets. We’re on a 7 pm curfew not that anyone outside is going to be stopped, seemingly, by that. There’s a pretty awesome rhythm the protest has going with everything from bells, syncopated whistles to base drum and boards. Plus, um – wow – water cannons right on the street right outside. Guy walks up hammers the water cannon tank and then sits down in front of it. Carabinieri in riot gear eventually swarm him… His dog tries to play with the carabinieri.