Today Desmond, Karl and I woke up late and we hustled to get to class. We took the train to Republica and started speed walking to class. We were about ten minutes late and when we showed up at the school we were met by an empty classroom. We asked if anybody had showed up and nobody had. We were lost, but luckily today was Thursday, the day of the education protests. Karl and I knew exactly what we wanted to do once we realized we went to the wrong place for class. We hopped on the train and went back two stations to La Moneda. We got off outside the presidential building and walked down towards the University of Chile. It was only 10 and the protests weren’t supposed to start until 11 so we went into a café and hung out until then. Karl got a coffee and smoked a few cigarettes and I got a peach juice.
About an hour later we came out of the alley way that the café was on and found ourselves in the midst of riot police and masked students. Across the street from us was the University of Chile draped in a huge black sign protesting against the education system, dozens of other signs and graffiti. We walked across the street to get closer to the action. Students had started cheering at the police and the tear gas had come out. The cops threw tear gas to disperse the crowd, only making the students more angry. Students with bandanas covering their faces threw anything they could get their ands on at the police. Then the water cannons came out. The police fired the hose at the students and even at the dogs that had formed a wall in front of the students, taking them right off of their feet. As the fighting between the students and the police continued on one side of the university, a group of dancers marched down the sidewalk beating drums, waving signs, and dancing until they were directly in front of one of the huge armored trucks the police were using. They were about two feet away from me and I was able to get some really cool video. When one of the students saw my video camera he offered my a lemon (to suck on to combat the tear gas) and encouraged me to go deeper down the side street where most of the violence was. I walked down with some reporters from CNN Chile and a few cameramen. The students had started a fire in the middle of the street and the riot police were trying to put it out. They would throw tear gas at the students and they would try to kick it away before they became engulfed in the burning gas. The fight went on for probably two and half hours back and forth, the students using rocks, debris, and paint bombs as their weapons and the police using water cannons and tear gas. I probably saw 5 students get arrested; they were handcuffed and dragged into the big green truck. Karl and I met a kid named Gonzalo who took us to the high school next door where most of the students were. It seemed like they were using it as a sort of base. There was one student out front who was letting people in and out and Gonzalo had to convince him to let us in. We hung out in there for a little while and met a few of Gonzalo’s friends. Then, Gonzalo walked us back to the train station and we headed home. It was amazing! Exactly what I had been dying to see the past two Thursdays. The students were so passionate and the danger was very real. The water cannons could seriously hurt people and the police were in danger of getting hurt by the rocks and debris being thrown at them by the students.