Colombian ESMAD Riot Police Attack Journalists & Passing Children In Brutal Suburban Bogotá Incident
At least four professional journalists reported being directly attached by Colombia’s ESMAD anti-riot police while covering an event in the Bogotá suburb of Suba yesterday. These attacks come after the ESMAD and the government of Ivan Duque face increasing domestic and international criticism for brutality and a general lack of professionalism or discretion.
Colombia’s police, especially the ESMAD riot troops, have been widely criticized for a lethal “knock-heads first, ask questions later attitude that has led to numerous deaths…then triggering protests from an outraged public, especially during the current administration of President Ivan Duque.
Stop, he’s a child!
In a difficult to watch encounter captured and posted to social media, a child riding his bicycle was attacked by ESMAD troops. In the recording you can hear screams of caution and see the child trying to shield himself by his bicycle as ESMAD troops swarmed and beat him. Afterwards, the police attack the pair of RCN journalists recording the violence.
#NoticiaW | Un joven se encuentra convulsionado en medio de los disturbios en la localidad de Suba. Pese a los llamados ninguna ambulancia ha llegado para auxiliarlo. >> https://t.co/AMNglsACd7 pic.twitter.com/i9mIDJAMEz
— W Radio Colombia (@WRadioColombia) June 29, 2021
According to reports, trouble started when ESMAD troops began confronting youths throwing rocks at the motorcade of Colombian Transportation Minister Ángela María Orozco, who was left to leave by road after President Duque flew off in a helicopter, after both were present in Suba to announce the future location of a planned subway line for Bogotá.
Still, according to eyewitness journalist accounts, ESMAD troops began to attack onlookers and people uninvolved with the disturbances. Journalist David Rodriguez from Colombia’s Blu Radio network recounted: “I was filming and the police started throwing stones. They hit me, I fell to the ground and I realized that I had bruises, I could not identify who it was but it did come from the the Police. The medical care workers picked me up, carried me away, and treated me directly.”
ESMAD troops attacked two journalists from RCN, one of Colombia’s largest media organizations. Reporters Kathy Sánchez and Alexandra Molina recounted their bloody ordeal. Sánchez said that the police first knocked her to the ground, then beat her and a nearby child on a bicycle she says, along with her colleague.
“In the recording you hear when we tell them not to hit us, and my partner is saying ‘Kathy, they are hitting me’. After that, the witnesses are the ones who helped us…while my leg is bloodied, Alexandra has her leg bruised where they hit her with the billy club,” says Sánchez.
Photojournalist from national newspaper El Espectador, Andrés Cardona reports that he was hit on the head by the police with the butt of a tear gas launcher. Cardona was taking photos of the police, which angered them, provoking one to attack, he said.
Police Major General Oscar Gómez took to twitter almost immediately to apologize, saying in a recorded video: “Faced with the events that occurred today in the town of Suba, we totally reject all types of violence. We spoke with the journalists and extended our respective apologies…Immediately, thanks to some videos, we proceeded to identify three police members of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad, who were immediately summoned to the command of the Metropolitan Police and separated from their duties.”
Ante inaceptable actuación de miembros del Escuadrón Móvil Antidisturbios este martes en #Suba, el Comandante de la Policía Metropolitana de Bogotá anuncia las primeras decisiones sobre este caso, que ha sido priorizado por la Institución. No toleraremos violaciones a los DD.HH. pic.twitter.com/CrZjT1dweh
— Policía Metropolitana de Bogotá (@PoliciaBogota) June 29, 2021
Ivan Duque’s Bloody Legacy
While isolated cases of police misbehavior can happen in even the most well-behaved governments, in Colombia, and especially under the administration of Ivan Duque, the police misconduct has reached a level so appalling that the accountability stains the very highest levels of leadership. Each year of the Duque presidency turns out more brutal than the last. Is he personally ordering it? Almost certainly not. The criticism from all sides of Duque is not that he is evil or a tyrant, but that he is inept, inefficient, ineffective, and clueless. Colombia’s police force is national, under the direct control of the President through his appointed minister of defense, in charge of both the military and the police.
As the video evidence shows, these are not instances of one or two rogue police officers, but swarms of them, attacking indiscriminately journalists, bystanders, children—like berserking Viking invaders, apologies to any Viking readers. As editorial practice, Finance Colombia avoids editorializing but the policing in Colombia has clearly become a grave human and civil rights crisis, and the world should be placed on notice.
Photo shared from the Twitter account of Jaime Carvajal