Colombia: Peaceful Protests to Violent Events in Medellin

The University of Antioquia in Medellin, Colombia was once more the center of a three point struggle between the government's police units, insurgent groups and the students, where the students scored a victory of sorts when they stood up for their right to study in a violence-free environment by expelling the riot police from their campus.

Pablo Rendón was there when it happened and used his cell phone to stream live video of the events as they unfolded. The video is choppy and the audio breaks, but during the events, it was one of the main sources of information of what was happening in the university:

In the audio Pablo Rendón (@prendon on twitter) explains how the students decided to gather together and try to push out the riot police from the campus through songs and chanting in what he considered was a peaceful demonstration.  On Thursday evening [es] he will also make an appearance on the WebShow TodoloqueHay [es] to talk about the situation at the University of Antioquia.

The University has undergone a tense situation in the past months related to guerrilla activity and drug trafficking inside the campus and security measures were taken to prevent this. It seems these actions were not popular with certain armed groups and on Tuesday, November 9th, a group of masked people, allegedly members of the FARC went inside the university and damaged equipment and left an explosive device in one of the bathrooms. This caused the government to deploy riot police teams and to lock down the university.

This video shows the masked students destroying the security camera on the library. According to the video description they also threw pipe bombs and destroyed a couple of laptop computers used at the entrance gates to check students’ IDs. One of the masked people at the end of the video can be seen smashing what could be one of the laptops on the ground:

It seems students got fed up with the situation where they can't study freely, there are strikes, budget cuts and violent events inside the campus and on top of that they have to deal with the armed forces on a daily basis as they are posted all around the university, but there is no resolution to the problems. The teachers wrote a press release, published on Facebook [es], where they discussed Tuesday's events and declared:

La tensa calma que venía imperando fue rota por esta acción abrupta a la cual respondió el Esmad cuyo cerco sobre el campus ha sido permanente, aun a pesar de la posición de la Asociación de Profesores en el sentido de rechazar toda forma de violencia venga de donde viniere y de invocar canales dialógicos y de construcción de acuerdos

The tense calm that ruled was broken by this abrupt action to which the Esmad [riot police] responded to, and their fence around the campus has been permanent, even though the Teachers Association's position rejects all forms of violence, regardless of where it comes from, and wishes to call on dialogue and the construction of agreements.

On Thursday morning there was a ceremony organized by the administration to censure the violent events. The riot police was posted outside when an explosive device detonated inside the campus. This is what Pablo (@prendon) wrote:

Manifestación en contra de la violencia. Suena una papabomba. Asistentes aplauden. Absurdo. #udea

Manifestation against violence. A pipe bomb explodes. Audience applauds. Absurd. #udea

Another video is also making its rounds, this time from the University's digital news site De la urbe digital :

On the Facebook Album of Que Pasa UdeA [es] many pictures of Thursday's events can be seen, where the students face the riot police or Esmad, and the comments tell a lot about the feelings felt around these events. Ju Carvajal disagreed with the idea that the Esmad was pushed out of the university “peacefully”:

A mi no me parecio que los rechazaran de “forma pacifica” los que lideraban ese movimiento estaban exageradamente alterados, vi a uno de ellos, como un gallo de pelea, a alguien que le dijo algo, parecia que le queria pegar, y los insultos a los del esmad, tampoco son de forma pacifica, ojala se enfrentaran asi a los capuchos.

I didn't see them being rejected “peacefully,” those leading this movement were extremely upset, I saw one of them like a fighting rooster, he said something to someone, it looked like he wanted to hit that person, and they were insulting the Esmad, that isn't peaceful, I wish they would face the masked ones this way.

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