Authors: Antonio Saadipour Sellés, Lisa Haugaard
Two months ago, Colombians took to the streets in the thousands to participate in a National Strike against a proposed tax reform that would put more financial strain on most families while benefiting large corporations and rich Colombians. Colombia is a country plagued by extreme wealth inequality, and the pandemic pushed 3.6 million Colombians into poverty. What they need now is economic relief, not policies that only serve the country’s wealthy elite.
What’s Going On?
The state response to the protests has been nothing short of brutal. The government seemed to give the police free rein to attack protesters. Temblores, a Colombian NGO that works to protect human rights, has documented 4,687 cases of police brutality, including 44 murders, 28 cases of sexual violence, and 2,005 arbitrary detentions of protesters between April 28 and June 26, 2021.
How You Can Help
Join this week of action called by the Colombia Human Rights Network and members of the Colombian diaspora in 11 states across the United States! Here are some ways you can participate:
Fill out this form to send a message to your representative and senators. We’ve already written it for you (though feel free to edit)! All you have to do is enter your contact information.
Show your support for Colombians’ right to peaceful protest by posting on social media and urging your representative and senators to take action! Download the graphics attached to this alert and post them along with some of the tweets below. Don’t forget to actually TAG your representative or senators wherever it says “@Representative” in the draft tweets!
- Colombians are tired of the violent rhetoric of Colombia’s government. I am asking @Representative to make a public statement clearly condemning the use of police violence against protesters and ongoing human rights violations in #Colombia🇨🇴 more generally. #SOSColombia
- More than 44 protesters killed & 1,617 injured by police forces. Colombians are tired of the endless war! @Representative, please work with your colleagues and the Colombian government to provide guarantees for Colombians to safely exercise the right to protest #SOSColombia 🕊️
- Colombians deserve a government that invests in peace! @Representative, please call on the Colombian government to demilitarize cities, stop police violence, & sit down to negotiate w/ the civil society groups that have been participating in the National Strike. #SOSColombia🇨🇴
- .@Representative, Colombians want investments in peace, education, and healthcare and for the U.S. to suspend all financing for the Colombian National Police and armed forces 🚨 #SOSColombia
Protesters and human rights defenders have called for the de-escalation of violence, only to be met with the militarization of cities and even more violent repression of protests. Given that the U.S. sends enormous amounts of aid to Colombian security forces, we must recognize the ways in which we are complicit in this violence. Then, it is up to us to make it right.
Kendrick Sampson, a U.S. actor and activist, experienced a harrowing encounter with Colombian police this past December during a visit to Cartagena. He was randomly stopped, aggressively searched, sexually assaulted, punched, yelled at, threatened with a gun, and arrested. In an interview with El Espectador, reflecting on the struggles of Afro-Colombians (and of Black people generally) with police brutality, he declared, “Our liberation is inextricably linked together. None of us are free until everyone is free. Let’s get free together.” We echo his powerful words as we continue to build peace in Colombia.