Colombia: Thousands Rebel After Police Murder Lawyer, Students Organize Combative Demonstrations

By Nélida Tello

For over a week, thousands have rebelled against the reactionary police in various cities across Colombia after 46 year-old Javier Ordoñez, lawyer and father of two, was killed by police officers in the early hours of September 9 in Bogota.

The arrest of Ordoñez was captured on camera and quickly gained national attention. During the arrest, Ordoñez was repeatedly tased and could be heard pleading for the police to stop. He was then taken to a police station where he was beat and tortured resulting in nine fractures to his skull, injuries to his ribs and a lacerated liver. He died in a local hospital later the same day.

After bystander video went viral, combative protests erupted in Bogota, Medellin, Cundinamarca, Cali, Manizales, Pereira, Barranquilla, Cúcuta, among other cities. The protests echo the uprisings in the United States against the police killings of Black people and show the popular anger against the old states and their armed enforcers across the world.

Confrontations ensued between protesters and police in armored trucks and on horseback. Barricades were strategically used against the police, enabling protesters to burn banks, ATMs, government building, and police stations. By the end of the first day of protests, 53 police stations were vandalized, 43 destroyed, and 17 incinerated in Bogota. Hundreds of protesters were injured and arrested, and 13 were killed by the police.

The Colombian people’s fiery resistance to the police has reverberated across the globe. In Austin, graffiti was seen in solidarity with the uprisings in Colombia reading “From Austin to Colombia / It is Right to Rebel Against Police Violence & Repression!” and a slogan in Spanish that read “For Our Deaths Not a Minute of Silence, but An Entire Life of Combat!”

Both, the Student Movement in Service of the People (MESP), and the Student Union for the People (UEP) played an undeniable role in the Medellin protests, organizing the anger of the people and leading the attack on the police headquarters.

On September 14, MESP and UEP organized a demonstration at the Bicentennial Park in Medellin, where a memorial commemorating 200 years of the military’s supposed service to the country was defaced and vandalized. Protesters denounced the crimes committed by the military against peasants, women, journalists, and the youth and set fire to the statue of a soldier which had been torn from its pedestal. A statue of a peasant which is also part of the memorial was draped in a red flag.

At the demonstration students combated former Medellin mayor Federico Gutiérrez’s red baiting and claims that MESP and UEP were clandestine organizations that had been infiltrated by FARC and the national liberation army (ELN). In public statements, the students affirmed that this was a vile attempt to discredit the protests, isolate revolutionary organizations from the people, and to intimidate youth from rebelling. MESP and UEP affirmed their conviction to fight alongside the people despite these attacks.

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