Today Perú celebrates its independence and around this time of year, there are many protests that erupt into violence. Yesterday thousands of people gathered in the Plaza Dos de Mayo and marched through the city streets towards Congress. This was the third (big) protest I have covered and I have to admit that the amount of people and the energy in the air was a bit daunting. This time around, however, knowing what to expect with respect to tear gas, police brutality and chaos, I was somewhat prepared.
Protests are a strange beast. On the one hand you have people who are really passionate about wanting their voices to be heard–so passionate that they will lash out violently or burn things or provoke police officers. On the other hand, you have the police who are supposed to protect the citizens but often you see them beating young and old and using tear gas in huge amounts to the point that kids and people unaffiliated with the protests are also affected. It’s simply a chaotic mess with strange, eerie pockets of quiet and silence–like the calm before a storm.
Coming from a country where people don’t really take to the streets in the same way, I am always impressed by people’s willingness to put their lives in danger to speak out against a system of government they don’t agree with or believe in. And then slowly the streets come back to life, people open their stores again and the birds settle back on the trees.