SANTIAGO – Tens of thousands of people took to the streets on Wednesday in Santiago and other Chilean cities, called forth by feminist groups, to demand women’s rights, an end to sexist education and an end to the gender gap.
In the capital, in an exuberant – but largely peaceful – atmosphere, organizers said some 80,000 people, although the government said only 15,000, marched along the city’s main street, Bernardo O’Higgins Boulevard for some four kilometers (2.5 miles) and about two hours.
The peaceful character of the march prevailed until just before the end of the demonstration groups of masked people began to destroy public property and clashed with police, who dispersed them with water cannon and teargas.
The demonstration was called by the University Feminist Coordinator (Cofeu) and the Confederation of Students of Chile (Confech), which gathers university and high school organizations.
This was the third such feminist protest march in the past month.
About 20 universities in Santiago and other cities, along with high schools and professional institutes remain occupied by students who are demanding that the university boards and the government adopt measures to end machista harassment and sexual abuse in those institutions and punishment for the perpetrators.
“The government, with its women’s agenda, is not speaking to women, is not speaking to Chile,” said the leaders of the organizations, who also said that the government’s agenda does not include public policies.
“It doesn’t satisfy us, since it doesn’t take account of what’s needed,” Francisca Ochoa, the communications secretary for the University of Chile Student Federation (Fech), told reporters.
Amanda Opazo, the spokesperson for the Cones high school students national coordinator, criticized the government for proposing dialogue regarding the women’s demands “but it has excluded the high schools” from the discussion.
Similar demonstrations were held in Valparaiso, Concepcion, Chillan, Arica and Puerto Montt, as well as other Chilean cities.