Seven civilians are dead in the Colombian capital Bogota and nearby satellite city Soacha after protests against police brutality turned violent overnight. The demonstrations were sparked by video that went viral of a Colombian man being repeatedly shocked with a stun-gun by police before dying shortly thereafter.
Nearly 100 police officers and 55 civilians were injured during the protests, some 70 protesters were arrested, mostly in the capital city.
Demonstrators were on the streets Wednesday night to protest the recent death of 46-year-old lawyer Javier Ordonez. Footage captured by Ordonez’s friend shows officers holding down the father of two and subjecting him to excessive electric shocks as he pleads, “Please, no more.”
Law enforcement officials say that in the early hours of Wednesday morning, officers found Ordonez drinking alcohol in the streets with friends, a violation of the area’s social distancing rules enacted to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Friends and family allege that Ordonez suffered further abuse after he was taken to the local police station after being apprehended by officers. He later died in the hospital, sparking anger among civilians over the use of excessive force by law enforcement.
Hundreds of protesters gathered outside of the police station where Ordonez was held, some using trash cans, rocks, and sticks to batter the building’s windows. According to the national police, two police stations were set on fire and three others were attacked in different areas of Bogota. A number of public vehicles were damaged.
The two officers involved have been suspended from their duties pending an investigation, the government said. An autopsy is pending.
Authorities said they have begun investigating the deaths of the seven civilian participants in the protests — five in Bogota and two in Soacha. Reports confirm that the dead include a 17-year-old boy.
Leftist Bogota mayor Claudia Lopez took to social media to advocate for justice and social reform. Lopez also expressed criticism against the Colombian police force, saying the violence “isn’t about bad apples.”
She urged the protesters to refrain from further violence.
Critics have questioned her level of authority over law enforcement.
President Ivan Duque denounced the officers’ abuse of authority, but he called for Colombians not to “stigmatize” the police.
In an effort to contain the protests, the Defense Ministry said Bogota’s police will be reinforced with 1,600 more officers—more than half of whom will come from other regions—and 300 soldiers.
Police involvement in civilian deaths is infrequent in Colombia but not unheard of. Anti-police sentiment is still sometimes expressed around the nation about the death of Colombian student Dilan Cruz, who was killed in November during mass anti-government demonstrations after being struck by a police projectile. Transgender Colombians regularly accuse police of violence against the community.
Voice of America – English