According to the report Todos los nombres, todos los rostros, between January 2016 and May 2019, 837 Colombian social leaders were killed. Their crime: working for the good of the people. Unfortunately, the Colombian government’s efforts to stop this bloodshed seem not to have been effective. Because of this, last Friday a global day for peace for this South American country took place.
Text and photos: Nathan Raia
The massive demonstration was called by Defensores por la Paz (‘Defenders of the peace’) and hundreds of thousands of people in Colombia and all over the world took to the streets to make visible, internationally, what is happening in Colombia.
In London, people gathered in front of Broadcasting House and after assembling nearby and asking the Colombian government to put a stop to the genocide, the protestors called for “No a la guerra, si a la paz” (“no to war, yes to peace”), “No más muertos en Colombia” (“no more deaths in Colombia”) and they protested for an end to the killing of social leaders in Colombia.
The group of about 70 people, composed for the most part by Colombians, started to march, moving down Regent Street where they blocked traffic for a few minutes between Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus. They held a several-meter-long banner, which had printed on it all the names of the victims that have been killed since the 2016 peace agreement signed in Havana with the FARC which has been “supported economically and politically by the UK”, according to Nick McWilliam, from Justice For Colombia and one of the organizers of the event.
During the march, they stopped in front of No.10 Downing Street. There, they attempted to make their voices heard by the new Prime Minister Boris Johnson and ask him to keep pressing the Colombian government to take action against the brutal murders and to punish the “assassins”. Shockingly, since January 2019, 59 Colombian social leaders have been killed and during the past year 982 have received threats.
Talking with the protesters, it’s clear that the Colombian people are not prepared to tolerate the high level of violence that is spreading all over the country: “Two people, two social leaders, are killed every day”, commented one demonstrator.
Responding to the call of the Defensores por la Paz – a network of people who are trying to defend the peace agreements – McWilliam said: “The purpose of this march is to defend peace. Today is the international day of support and solidarity for peace and human rights in Colombia.”
Moreover, he added: “Around 500 social leaders, human rights defenders and trade unionists have been murdered in Colombia since the peace process was signed. The human rights situation is really terrible”.
At the end of the march, they arrived at the Houses of Parliament where a smaller group of protesters joined the main one, forming a crowd of almost a hundred people.
There, they urged the British government to put pressure on the Colombian regime. The protest ended with all the demonstrators singing a national Colombian song: “Colombia tierra querida” (“Colombia cherished Land”).
The protest in London was part of an international mobilization called by Defensores por la Paz and more than 30 countries, from different parts of the world, took to the streets with them to protest against the murder of social activists.
In Colombia, hundreds of thousands of people across 80 cities staged a peaceful and moving march filling several of the country’s streets.
Breaking the silence in London
All about the march and Defendamos la Paz. Click here