Colombia: They ask to release prisoners in social outbreak of 2021

BOGOTÁ (HPD) — Dozens of young people demonstrated Friday before the Colombian prosecutor’s office asking for the release of those detained after the 2021 social outbreak in which thousands of people protested against the government, most peacefully and others with violence.

“Free those who freed us!”, demanded one of the protesters with his face covered. Several people refused to speak to The Associated Press at the protest on condition of anonymity.

The protest in Bogotá was called by the so-called “Front Line” groups, as they were known in the 2021 demonstrations, who were closest to the riot police to defend themselves.

As of September, the prosecution reported 33 active cases against the so-called “First Line” groups, in which 168 people have been charged. Most are in the investigation stage and 10 went to trial. In some cases, the prosecution has charged them with damage to public or private property, road obstruction and even terrorism.

Congress recently refused to pardon imprisoned “Front Line” protesters allegedly involved in violence. The opposition Democratic Center party criticized the proposal for considering it a door to “impunity.”

The social outbreak of 2021 began due to citizen discontent with a tax reform promoted by President Iván Duque (2018-2022) and that would affect the middle class. The government agreed to withdraw the bill, but the demonstrations continued and lasted for two months with varied demands such as more employment, education for young people, the dismantling of the riot police and the defense of the right to protest.

The protests had acts of violence. The UN verified 46 fatalities —44 civilians and two police officers—, most of them due to firearms or impacts from tear gas projectiles. He explained that in 28 of those cases the police officers would be the presumed responsible.

Added to this is the fact that during the protests, vehicles, police stations and several roads were incinerated and blocked without allowing the passage of food or medicine.

With megaphones, the protesters called on Friday for the “release of political prisoners”, as they consider the detainees, and demanded that the government of Gustavo Petro keep its word to free them and not send the riot police to the demonstrations.

Some of the protesters tried to remove the fences protecting the public prosecutor’s office and the riot police reacted with tear gas, which finally dispersed them. Then they went to the facilities of the National University of Colombia, where the disturbances began. Some people threw stones at the police, who responded with water jets and gas.

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