The downtown area of Colombia’s second biggest city Medellin was transformed into scenes of chaos Monday as demonstrations from street vendors escalated into violent clashes with police.
Local vendors had planned to meet with city officials on Monday morning to discuss trading rights; however when no one from the local government showed up traders took to the streets in protest and blocked off major routes into the city center.
By the afternoon the city center was awash with disorder as protesters turned to rioting and began smashing shop windows with sticks, bricks and brooms.
The rioters, many of whom were masked, were confronted by riot police who used what seemed like mild tear gas to herd them down the street.
At one point police were inflicted with a barrage of objects thrown by rioters and minutes later an armed van arrived equipped with a water cannon.
As the chaos spread around the center, shops, restaurants and banks pulled down their shutters to protect the workers and locals who were taking refuge inside.
One shop worker from the bank Confiar Cooperation Financial said to Colombia Reports that the protests “manifested itself around 1pm, when rioters smashed our front window.”
The disturbances caused three of the cities metro stations to temporarily close while police took control of the situation.
At least five people were taken to an armed police van while no injuries have been reported thus far.
According to the local government the traders had been under the impression that they were to be banned from selling while in fact the authorities were looking to help them out.
Radio Caracol reported that the mayor of the city Anibal Gaviria is planning on a meeting with street vendors to discuss these issues on Monday evening.