Things That Matter

Protesters In Chile Have Been Brutally Attacked By Police And Now The President Just Admitted The Police Are Guilty

From Haiti and Puerto Rico to Ecuador and, now, Chile, communities around the world are standing up against policies that they view as contributing to growing income inequality.

After Chile’s President had announced a planned increase in public transit fares, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets to announce their opposition to the plan. Chile has already been combating extreme income inequality and a growing cost of living that has outpaced wage growth, making Chile one of the most expensive Latin American countries to live in.

This growing inequality has led to major demonstrations across the country and with them, accusations of police brutality.

Chile’s President Piñera has admitted for the first time that police have abused protesters.

Credit: AFP

Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera condemned for the first time what he called abuses committed by police in dealing with four weeks of violent unrest that have rocked the South American nation.

“There was excessive use of force. Abuses and crimes were committed, and the rights of all were not respected,” the president said in a speech to the nation Sunday as it marked a month of turmoil that has left 22 people dead and more than 2,000 injured.

Accusations of police brutality and human rights violations have been levelled since the protests broke out, prompting the United Nations to send a team to investigate. Amnesty International has also sent a mission.

“There will be no impunity, not for those who committed acts of unusual violence, nor for those who committed excesses and abuses. We will do what is best for the victims,” Pinera said, referring to protesters first and then the security forces.

Public prosecutors in Chile are investigating more than 1,000 cases of alleged abuses.

Credit: Rafael Ibanez / Getty

The accusations range from torture to sexual violence – by the police and military. Police have also been accused of stopping rescuers helping a dying protester.

Chile’s independent human rights watchdog said it would file a formal complaint for murder against police officers who allegedly prevented paramedics from attending a heart attack victim amid a protest last Friday.

Security forces firing tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons made it impossible for rescuers to properly treat the victim, Chile’s publicly-funded National Institute for Human Rights said.

Twenty-nine year old Abel Acuna died shortly after at a nearby Santiago hospital. The case joins more than 1,000 others currently under investigation by public prosecutors. Accusations of abuses by security forces ranging from torture to sexual violence have multiplied during weeks of anti-government unrest.

Even the country’s highest medical body has expressed concern at the growing injuries.

Credit: Reuters

Last week, Chile’s main medical body said at least 230 people had lost sight after being shot in an eye with lead or rubber projectiles while participating in demonstrations. Of those, at least 50 people will need prosthetic eyes.

“We are facing a real health crisis,” said Dr Patricio Meza, vice-president of the Medical College of Chile.

“In three weeks, we have had the highest number of cases involving serious ocular complications due to shots in the eye.”

At demonstrations, it’s common to see police firing pellet guns at crowds. Often, “they’re firing at 90 degrees, which is to say, directly at the face,” Meza said. He said most of the injured say it’s the national police force – known as the Carabineros – who are the ones firing.

Furious Chileans have been protesting social and economic inequality, and against an entrenched political elite that comes from a small number of the wealthiest families in the country.

Credit: EPA

The massive demonstrations have been mostly peaceful, but it’s common to see hooded protesters infiltrate the gatherings, hurling rocks, raising barricades and confronting police, who clamp down with violence.

The demonstrations started originally over a rise in the fare of the metro in the capital, Santiago, but quickly spread across the country and widened into more general protests against high levels of inequality, the high price of health care and poor funding for education.

Harsh repression by the security forces further stoked the anger of those protesting as did the response by President Piñera, who declared a state of emergency and said the country was “at war”.

The government and protesters have reached at least one agreement – and that is the plan for a new constitution.

Credit: Prensa Latina

On Sunday, Pinera also praised an agreement reached last week under which Chile will draft a new constitution to replace the current one that dates back to the rightwing dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, who ruled from 1973 to 1990.

Many in Chile see this step – getting rid of a charter that smacks of a dark, repressive chapter in the country’s past – as a way to help end the crisis.

“If the people want it, we will move toward a new constitution, the first under democracy,” Pinera said in a speech from the presidential palace.

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A Native American Veteran Shared a Video of Himself Being Tased By a Park Ranger on Sacred Grounds in New Mexico

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A Native American Veteran Shared a Video of Himself Being Tased By a Park Ranger on Sacred Grounds in New Mexico

Screenshot via hou5edm/Instagram

Recently, a video went viral of a New Mexico park ranger tasing a Native American man that sparked a conversation about the right non-Indigenous government authorities have to exert over Indigenous Americans.

Last Sunday, a Native American man named Darrell House shared a video of himself screaming in agony and calling for help as a park ranger tased him.

In the four-minute long clip posted to Instagram, House screams for help and writhes in agony on the ground as the unnamed park ranger continuously uses his taser on him. The woman recording the altercation repeatedly yells “What are you doing?” at the ranger while the ranger continues to demand that House show him his ID.

House, who grew up on a reservation and is of Navajo and Oneida descent, wrote a lengthy caption describing in detail what had transpired.

House wrote: “Today 12/27/2020, I was tased for being off trail at the Petroglyphs. I come here to pray and speak to my Pueblo Ancestor relatives. Even though I’m Navajo and Oneida, I honor this land.”

“Here, you will see a white man abuse his power. Both men pulled tasers on me after the first 1 couldn’t keep me down. This could have been a civil interaction. The law doesn’t work for the Indigenous. The government doesn’t give a shit about us. This was uncalled for. You see I’m clearly on the trail. I explained my reason for being off trail (which I shouldn’t have to. If anyone has the right to be off trail and wander this land, it’s the NATIVE INDIGENOUS COMMUNITY!”

“I didn’t feel I needed to identify myself for doing absolutely nothing wrong.
I’m traumatized. My left leg is numb and still bleeding. [My dog] Geronimo is shaking and hasn’t stopped. I’m shaking.”

Darrell House, who is also a military veteran, added: “I’m good people, the Marines I served with would agree. The many people I’ve crossed paths with–you know me.”

In response to the public outcry, the National Park Service said they were “investigating” the incident.

The National Park Service says that House was cited for walking off-trail at Petroglyph National Monument. House does not deny the claim, but says that walking where he wants to on sacred indigenous grounds is an ancestral right.

“Nature is what we’ve been worshipping … and protecting it has always been our job,” he told NBC News. “I am Native, you know. I have rights to this land. I have rights off the trail.”

House also doesn’t deny refusing to identify himself to the park ranger. “I didn’t see a reason to give my identification,” he said. “I don’t need to tell people why I’m coming there to pray and give things in honor to the land. I don’t need permission or consent.”

The local Albuquerque government has since become involved, releasing a statement that said the incident had been “elevated to the Federal investigation level”.

City Councilor Cynthia Borrego wrote that the incident was “troubling” and “uncomfortable” to watch and that her officer “recognizes and supports the investigation into any indigenous rights that may have been violated as a result of the actions taken in this unfortunate incident.”

The statement concluded by reiterating that Native Americans have the right “to practice their cultural beliefs as protected by the American Indian Religious Freedom Act and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

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Latino Southern California Man Dies in Police Custody After Footage Shows Officers Aggressively Beating and Restraining Him

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Latino Southern California Man Dies in Police Custody After Footage Shows Officers Aggressively Beating and Restraining Him

Photo via christian.ghc/Instagram

The family of a Southern California Latino man who died in police custody is demanding justice for what they believe was the unlawful use of excessive force.

33-year-old Ernie Serrano died on December 15th after being forcefully restrained by multiple police officers for an extended period of time.

Although authorities are claiming Serrano had a gun and was threatening their safety, civilian and police body cam footage paints a more complicated picture.

The gruesome civilian cell phone footage begins with Serrano being violently beaten on his arms by a police officer’s baton. The officer then wrestles Serrano to the ground before other officers pile on, tackling him.

The corresponding body cam footage shows a bloodied-up Serrano being forcefully held down by police officers on the checkout’s conveyor belt. The officers appear to be using their bodies to restrain him, heavily leaning on him.

Serrano repeatedly says “let me go”, and at one point even calls the officers out for using “excessive force”.

Appearing to be desperate, Serrano yells his name, his birthday and other important information, ostensibly in order to identify himself in case things take a turn for the worse.

As the video progresses, Serrano slowly begins to lose energy as multiple officers lean on his back. His pleas of “let me go” becoming weaker and weaker. Eventually, Serrano becomes motionless.

One of the officers that was restraining him calls out his name once he becomes unresponsive. When they realize he isn’t breathing, they lower his body to the ground and attempt to resuscitate him. But by this time, it’s too late. According to Riverside County authorities, Serrano was pronounced dead at the local hospital.

The authorities’ official autopsy ruled Serrano’s death a result of acute methamphetamine intoxication.

“While detaining Serrano, he continued fighting with the deputies and did not comply with their commands. At that time, a use of force occurred,” said Riverside Sgt. Lionel Murphy to Fox11 News.

But regardless of whether Serrano was using drugs or not, civil rights activists have long made the point that drug-use does not and should not equal an automatic death sentence at the hands of law enforcement. If someone is indeed high or intoxicated while interacting with law enforcement, the proper lawful paths should be taken to correct the behavior. People who use drugs do not automatically “deserve” death.

After viewing the footage leading up to Serrano’s death, his family believes that there are some inconsistencies to the police’s story.

For one, Serrano was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon and the Riverside police say they used force on him because he had a gun. But the footage does not show Serrano wielding a gun against the officers. Serrano’s family believes his death could have been prevented.

“Fear, anxiety, all of those elements were there that [the police are] trained to recognize. And instead of helping him when he’s saying ‘help’, what do they do? They keep him in that position and they’re smiling when they’re doing it,” said the family’s lawyer, Humberto Guizar at a December 21st press conference outside the grocery store where Serrano died. “They killed him. This is murder.”

“Pigs are lying about what took place,” wrote Serrano’s aunt, Michelle Castillo on Facebook. “But there’s plenty of video to show what really went down.”

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