Vanesa protects herself from the hail of tear gas, rocks and fire hose jets that often mark protests in Colombia with just safety glasses, a helmet, a bandana over her nose and mouth and a wooden shield fragile black.
The mother-of-three is part of a group of 10 women calling themselves “Front Line Moms” who attend protests to protect young people from alleged police violence.
The Andean country has seen nearly a month of protests and thousands of roadblocks. Although the leaders of the protest made prior agreements for talks with the government on Monday evening, they promised that the marches against inequalities and police abuse, among others, will continue.
“If our children are going to fight, if our children go on the march, we mothers will support them and with them we will fight,” chanted the group during a recent demonstration.
Vanesa, 39, lost her job as a tango dancer due to the coronavirus pandemic and started selling coffee on the streets.
“We are a group of single mothers who are now trying to fight for the violated rights of young people,” said Vanesa, who declined to share her last name.
The group has appeared in social media videos, one of which shows a sound grenade thrown by police exploding near them during a protest.
Vanesa said moms were inspired to act after attending a demonstration where the national riot squad gassed a group of protesting mothers and children.
“It was the spark to decide that we were going to do something different,” she said.
The government says only 17 deaths are directly linked to the marches, while human rights groups claim dozens more. The attorney general’s office said it found 290 missing people and is looking for 129 others.
Whole families joined marches galvanized by poverty, which soared to 42.5% last year, and high unemployment that exacerbated already deep inequalities.
“We are tired that there is no work, that there is no health care, of the violation of our rights even to protest,” Vanesa said, as protesters lined up. for a meal in the south of Bogota, observed by the police.
Other groups of similar mothers have sprung up in towns, including in western Pasto.
Vanesa called on the police to respect the marchers.
“They also have mothers.”
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