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Medellin marches against youth violence

posted by Marguerite Cawley

Colombia News - March

Medellin streets filled with members of the community Tuesday protesting the rise in violence against their youth.

The march was in reaction to the murder of 17-year-old rapper Daniel Alejandro Sierra, known in the hip hop community as “Yhiel,” on Saturday night in west Medellin’s Comuna 13 neighborhood.

“We don’t want any more dead youths. We have to mobilize in favor of life,” said Ana Maria, a protest organizer who declined to give her last name.

Hundreds of youths, their families, Medellin officials, and non-governmental organizations banded together to commemorate the dead and to protest ongoing violence in the city. The two hour march started at the San Javier metro station in Comuna 13 and ended at the Atanasio Girardot soccer stadium.

Many of the protesters were youths sporting hip hop garb, blasting rap music from speakers, and carrying graffiti-lettered signs with statements such as “We march forward for life” and “Without arms, life is another story.”

Cristina Hernandez, a mother of two who has lived in Comuna 13 for 25 years, and whose children were friends with Yhiel, finds hip hop to be a positive influence in the kids’ lives.

“Hip hop is a way to express themselves. They speak it, they understand it. More than anything, it’s about the message. It’s a way for kids to express themselves without guns,” said Hernandez.

Many of the groups that marched are organizations that promote cultural development for impoverished youths, such as “Hip Hoppers por la paz,” the “Elite Hip Hop network,” and “Redepaz.”

Redepaz is an organization that helps kids as young as six develop interests such as graffiti, break-dancing and rapping. Jomar, who works with youths in Comuna 8, says he does this work “because we need a different street culture, something different for the kids to do. Here the streets are very hot.”

An investigation by a Medellin NGO revealed that 2,000 youths between the ages of 11 and 25 have been murdered in the city in the past two years.

Medellin’s more impoverished neighborhoods have been particularly affected by territorial disputes caused by drug trafficking, according to Medellin policeman Jonathan Carrero.

Natalie Especia, Medellin’s Secretary of Culture who attended the march said she was unaware of the numbers of youths who have been killed in the past couple of years.

“There’s not more violence in the comunas, it’s a problem in all of Medellin, and violence is cyclical,” said Especia.

The march was a “call to the administration to do something so that youths can live,” said Ana Maria, adding that, “the responsibility lies on the state, the police, families, and the youths themselves.”

Hannah Aronowitz contributed to this article.

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