Wednesday, January 18, 2006
It's about time...
4 years at Wesleyan and I had to come all the way to Ecuador to get teargassed at a protest! I missed out on the whole coup when they kicked out Lucio in the spring, so it's about time I got in on some action. For those of you are calling me a foolhardy young thrill-seeker, I would like to point out that I was not looking for a spot of police brutality. I was simply trying to go to choir practice. I did realize there was trouble once I tried to take the trole and it was closed after Parque El Ejido, which always means that there are protests further south around the government buildings. Of course in this city if you let a protest stop you you'll never get anywhere. So I, among many others walked down into the area to try and go about our business. Besides, I did want to check it out and I certainly support the cause. Students have been protesting since Thursday when the government announced a possible increase in bus fare from 25 to 35 cents. If this sounds petty, remember that's a LOT of money here, and even students who go to public school usually have to take some form of transportation. And the government is supposedly working on reforms, but instead they're raising prices and negotiating questionable free trade agreements with the US. (I haven't even mentioned the protests against the TLC...)
Here's a link to the latest Quito newspaper coverage (in Spanish): http://www.hoy.com.ec/
Or an article in english: http://www.plenglish.com/article.asp?ID=%7B3CF63FA3-EC18-4DD6-AA7B-E5CF26626428%7D&language=EN
I realized pretty quick that the students had barricaded a big area (probably 10 square blocks or something) and I wasn't going to be able to get around. Plus I could feel the remnants of teargas in the air, and see distant groups of students sporadically running away from places where presumably the police had gotten through. Not to mention that every student in the street was hefting pretty large stones and they all looked like they were itching to throw them. But before I could get out of there, a big tank turned onto the street and all hell pretty much broke loose. Students started throwing their stones at the tank, but since the stones were coming from all directions everyone else was in danger too. And then the teargas came. So with some other students I tried to get into a store but they shut the gates in our faces and we had to run down the street. Before you start freaking out (Mom) it's not like I was in any real danger, but I really could have done without the burning from the tear gas and the threat of stoning. Anyway, here I am, safe and sound in an internet cafe and killing time until my next class.
I'm really impressed by the activism of such young students (it's all high school students, and they have an organization and everything), a little disturbed that building bonfires in the street and throwing stones at tanks is normal here, and more disturbed that the police use such methods against kids here. I think you can see from the above picture that they are all high school kids in their cute little uniforms, wearing backpacks and everything. I know they aren't exactly 5 year olds getting hit with firehoses, and a bus increase isn't as dire as segregation, but with all the talk of MLK and civil rights protests this week, it's a little reminder that all that isn't just history.
So, barring further incidents I ought to be able to return to my regularly scheduled posting of new year's pictures tomorrow.
And hey, I'm sure this is the best time to put in another plug to come visit me in quito...