Protests in support of dismissed Bogota Mayor Gustavo Petro drew hundreds to the streets in several of Colombia’s largest cities on Friday.
|The photos from Cali were kindly contributed by photographer Alvaro Marquez. The photo from Bogota was taken from the Twitter account of @NataliadelaV|
Dozens of supporters from all around the country were gathered in Bogota, Colombia’s capital, as early as 8AM.
In other places around the city, hundreds of supporters of the leftist mayor gathered around 4PM to march to the
central Bolivar Square in downtown Bogota.
The turnout was significantly lower than anticipated by the Petro supporters who had predicted to draw almost 150,000 people.
Protesters walked over the main Carrera 7 from the National Park to Bolivar Square; forcing more traffic jams than usual. Bogota’s police department sent out some 3,500 policemen to secure the march would not result in disorder.
In other other major cities throughout the country people also gathered to express their support of the leftist burgomaster who was dismissed and barred from holding office for 15 years by Inspector General Alejandro Ordoñez over irregularities in a trash collection reform in December 2013.
In Cali, protesters numbered about 70, carrying banners from the Plazoleta Jairo Varela to the Parque de las Banderas and chanting slogans like “Petro doesn’t go, Petro stays!” and “Ordoñez, fascist! You’re a terrorist!”
Marchers were watched over by a heavy police presence, but the demonstration stayed peaceful. Traffic through Cali’s central district briefly slowed as protesters marched through the roadways starting at about 4 p.m.
Members of the left-wing political party Union Patriotica were among the groups represented at the protest. Union Patriotica member Omar Romero, 52, a lawyer in Cali, said protesters were marching in support of Petro, but also in support of democracy.
Among protesters was Jeison Lubo, 29, of Cali, a student at Universidad del Valle. He said he joined other supporters of the protesters to show there is nationwide dissatisfaction with Petro’s removal.
“We don’t feel good about what happened with Petro, but not only about Petro,” Lobo said. “Democratically, these institutions, like the Inspector General, don’t have the right to do things like this.”
Paola Andrea Pipicano, 27, of Cali, marched with protesters, waving a Colombian flag. She said she joined protesters because she disgrees with Petro’s removal. She said she hoped the protests sent a very simple message to the government.
“That they respect democracy,” she said.
The protesters marched to support Petro’s claims that his dismissal was politically motivated and arbitrary; The Bogota mayor, a former guerrilla of the now-officially defunct M-19 movement, and Ordoñez, a conservative Catholic, are political opponents on a wide range of issues.
Petro called on his supporters on Thursday to keep the marches peaceful, stressing that the protests should defend democracy and civil rights with non-violent means.
The former mayor is currently waiting for the inspector general to rule on Petro’s appeal. The United Nations and the Inter-American Court for Human Rights are also studying claims Ordoñez overreached his authority by removing the elected official from office.