Bogota Police arrested 219 protesters who took part in the march to celebrate Colombia’s Labor Day in Bogota on Saturday. Heavy clashes between demonstrators and police left 16 people injured. In Cali, reporters denounced they had been attacked by police.
The march in Bogota took place on carrera septima, one of the city’s main roads, and drew some 25,000 demonstrators.
According to the authorities, young, bald and hooded men started breaking windows of banks and insurance companies on the route. “They also started to push people to create chaos,” authorities told newspaper El Tiempo.
Just before leftist presidential candidate Gustavo Petro was to give a speech, hooded men started throwing potatoes filled with explosives and the police responded by throwing tear gas grenades at the crowd. According to several media, Petro and Liberal Party leader Rafael Pardo were escorted away from the demonstration with their eyes red of the tear gas. The speech was canceled.
To newspaper El Espectador, Petro said that it was the police who had provoked the violence and had attacked the crowd with little reason. During the violence, young men attacked the police with wooden sticks while the police fought with rubber and tear gas.
In Colombia’s third city Cali, journalists of press agencies EFE and AP and Colombian television stations Cable Noticias and Caracol denounced they had been attacked by riot police. “They kicked me in the back, exactly where I had been operated. We filed a complaint,” EFE correspondent Carlos Ortega said.
In Medellin, local media reported the marches occurred with no incidents.
Labor Day marches in Colombia are traditionally polluted by violence.