Foreigners have the right to take part in Colombia’s national strike on Thursday. If you want to support the Colombian people taking part in protest marches, here’s how to do this orderly and without too much risk.
Keep in mind that the protests are opposed by the government and that the police, particularly the ESMAD riot squad, has been using violence to repress recent protests.
There are ways, however, to exercise your rights while avoiding trouble.
Remember that you are a guest in Colombia. Be a good guest.
Colombian law obliges all persons to carry identification and obey police orders when asked to identify themselves. When you are asked to do so, show your passport or ID card as requested.
If a policeman requests a body search, comply. If you are a woman, ask for a female police officer to conduct the search.
Understand that the marches are expected to be huge and a major challenge for local law officials. Make sure that you follow police orders and cooperate with their efforts to maintain order.
If you notice irregularities, report these with the police.
As in any crowded event, make sure that you are aware of pickpockets. Keep your valuable belongings where you can make sure they are safe.
The marches are meant to be peaceful and will be monitored by both police and protest organizers. If you notice tensions, walk away from them and join a group that is less rowdy.
Because of the size of the marches, it is likely that police are tense. Make sure to maintain friendly with the authorities and cooperate with them so they can maintain order.
If you feel things are generally becoming too tense, go home.
There have been warnings of far-right fringe groups that will seek to disrupt the protests. The police are responsible that this doesn’t happen. But also here it’s important that if you feel things are generally becoming too tense, go home.
Extremist students may also try to disrupt the protests. These students are generally wearing hoodies or have their face covered. When you notice you are near these guys, walk away.
If it happens that riots break out, go home. You do have rights to protest and express your opinion, but getting involved in violence or riots is a crime.
Depending on your city, mayors may have imposed a liquor ban. Even without a liquor ban, don’t drink alcohol. These marches have a serious social purpose. Drinking or smoking weed is simply not appropriate even if it is allowed.
Any type of disorderly or violent behavior is off limits and will get you expelled from the country if not thrown in jail.
If all goes well, protest marches can be fun social events. If things go well, enjoy your time.