SANTIAGO – Chanting “Killer cops!” and “The cops killed him,” scores of people gathered on Monday to lay to rest a street performer killed by police in the latest use of deadly force by the Carabineros, Chile’s militarized national police.
The body of Francisco Martinez was brought on Sunday to Santiago’s Puente Alto district from the town of Panguipulli, 800 kilometers (497 miles) south of the capital, where the fatal shooting took place.
Hundreds of people attended his wake, including Roberto Marquez, lead singer with Illapu, an Andean musical ensemble known for protest songs.
The funeral cortege arrived a little after 9:00 am at El Prado cemetery in Puente Alto.
“The Carabineros must be dissolved, we need a police force, but not the Carabineros,” Felipe Riquelme, who lost an eye after being shot in the face by cops during nationwide protests in October 2019, said as the 27-year-old juggler was interred.
“Culture is the worst enemy of the state and impunity is what must be overthrown,” Riquelme said.
Friends and fellow street artists of the deceased held placards, while a group of mourners in hoods scuffled with members of the media covering the event.
At least three officers were involved in the incident last Friday that led to Martinez’s death, much of which was captured on video.
Martinez, according to police, refused to produce identification when asked and an argument ensued.
The images circulated on social media show that one of the officers drew his gun and pointed it at Martinez, who reacted by unsheathing two large knives he used in his juggling act.
The Carabineros officer then fired five shots at Martinez, insisting later that he acted in self-defense. But he was taken into custody and is due in court on Monday.
Protests erupted within hours of the shooting, not only in Panguipulli, where the town hall was set ablaze, but also in the capital and other Chilean cities such as Concepcion.
Human rights organizations renewed calls for an overhaul of the Carabineros that would see officers trained in the “rational and proportionate” use of force.
As of last Oct. 1, prosecutors had opened more than 4,600 probes into accusations of human rights violations by the Carabineros over the course of the uprising that began in October 2019 to protest the extreme inequality that prevails in Chile, but only 75 officers had been formally charged.
Some 30 people died and thousands more were injured in the initial wave of the largest mobilizations Chile has witnessed since the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.
Turnout dwindled in early 2020 during the Southern Hemisphere summer and protests halted when Chile entered lockdown for the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the easing of restrictions, demonstrations resumed ahead of the Oct. 25, 2020, referendum where Chileans voted in favor of drafting a new constitution to replace the one imposed by Pinochet in 1980.
The revival of demonstrations was accompanied by another dramatic instance of police brutality that was caught on film.
On Oct. 2, 2020, a Carabineros officer hurled a 16-year-old protester into Santiago’s Mapocho River from a height of 7.5m (24ft).
The adolescent was badly hurt, but survived and is reported to be recovering at his family’s home.