Over One Million people protest in Chile

No fewer than one million people took to streets in the Chilean capital of Santiago on Friday afternoon, uniting in a call for huge social and political change in the country.

In an extraordinary day for Chileans, the capital was brought to a standstill after a week of widespread and at times violent unrest over inequality.

The demonstration is believed to be the largest in decades, drawing comparisons to historic marches in 1988 against the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

“This is really emotional, the fact that we are all together, this is a very new thing for Chile,” said Camilo Godoy, surrounded by chants of “Oh, Chile Desperto” (Chile woke up).

“Finally people have woken up,” Godoy said.

Friday’s marches were the climax of a weeklong unrest sparked by a student protest over the rise in Santiago’s metro fares.

The student campaign catalysed into countrywide protests, with people furious over inequality and the nearly complete privatisation of healthcare and education, the high cost of public services such as transport, on top of low wages and poor pensions.

Throughout the afternoon the streets leading up to Plaza Italia, the heart of Chile’s demonstrations, filled with people and the sounds of banging pots and pans (the traditional cacerolazo protest).

People of all ages and classes joined together to the beat of pans and drums. Music groups started impromptu concerts in different areas of the streets, squeezed between thousands of other demonstrators dancing and jumping in unison.

“The dictatorship divided us, but here you can see everyone, Mapuche [indigenous group], feminists, migrants, sexual diversity, young children. It’s everything. No one is missing today,” Godoy added.

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