Around 80 Thousand Chilean students and supporters protested against President Michelle Bachelet’s education reform legislation across Chile on August 21.
The march marked the third demonstration in recent months calling for the government to improve the quality of education and make it free at all levels. Chilean student and teacher organizations have demanded more involvement in drafting the government’s policy and selection process in schools.
They say they want more participation in talks on the reform, fearing “deals behind closed doors” or agreements that would benefit education businesses. Students complained about feeling excluded from educational reform talks, adding that the process is taking too long and increasing fears of back door deals taking place.
President Michelle Bachelet has promised to make reforms under the center-left government to the privatized education system in Chile, stagnating since the departure of Pinochet, and often criticized for being of poor quality and benefiting the rich.
— ѕyndιcalιѕт (@syndicalisms) August 21, 2014
The President of Universidad de Chile’s Center for Engineering Students Max Ferrer also expressed disappointment that students are being left out.
“We do not understand why President [Michelle Bachelet] cannot prioritize a substantive dialogue with the student movement, which represents society’s interests and not the pockets of few,” he said.
SANTIAGO — Yesterday, students entered and took over the Ministry of Education, announcing that it was only the beginning, and today the protests went on with a massive national march.
The dissatisfaction is in part a response to the overtaking reform made by the government earlier this week. Different members of the educational system participated in the march, which was organized by the Social Committee for Education.
It began at 10:30 a.m. at the Plaza Italia and was scheduled to end at Plaza Los Héroes at around 2 p.m., but at around 1 p.m. people were running in all directions.
Big trucks spraying teargas was driving through the streets, leaving the protesters with no option but to stop walking and seek shelter. This even went on after the marching had been brought to a halt.
“The protest started a bit after 10:30 p.m. in Plaza Italia, and ended in the sector of República. The march was not over yet, when the special forces of the police intervened,” said Germán Machuca, a Human Rights Watcher of the House of Memory José Domingo Cañas.
“The protest was calm and civilized, we were in the middle of the artistic acts and speeches when they came with water and tear gas-thrower, forcing the protestants to spread all around the area. From this moment due to the intervention of the police officer, the protest was forced to end,” explained Mr. Machuca, wearing a gas mask.
Other protesters were also unhappy with the police brutality, but they were not surprised.
“The amount of people who were part of the march reflects the tremendous disapproval of the system. The police’s reaction was the same as always: inciting to a violent behavior. On TV they only show you that we, the students, come and are aggressive but this is not how it is. The cops come and suppress the people. That is why the protestants get angry,” a protesting girl said to I Love Chile.
Her friend agreed, saying that just the presence of the police is a type of violence in itself.
“Even when the police is not acting with violence against us, only by being everywhere in the streets, they already exercise a type of violence. They are standing there with their tanks, steel jackets and pressurizing the people. Where can we go through? Where can we walk? It is a constant repression even though we, the protestors, are not being violent. We just peacefully make use of our right to protest.”
Chile: Police fire water cannons and tear gas at Santiago protesters
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