Chile’s Social Uprising – A Year in Photos

By | 04 January, 2021

Since the Chilean social uprising began in October 2019, photographer Sebastian Runner has been documenting the protests, largely between Valparaíso and Santiago.

Selected from over a year’s mobilisations, from the early days of the spontaneous uprising against inequality and social exclusion, up to October 2020’s national vote approving a new constitution, these photos document the personal side of the Chilean people’s struggle for public services, access to opportunities, and a ‘dignified life for all’.

Central squares and statues have been renamed during the year of social uprising. Plaza de Italia in Santiago is now referred to as ‘Dignity Plaza’, one of the central chants calling for a ‘dignified life for all’.
The sound of neighbours banging pots in support of the protests can be heard from apartment windows even during lockdown, called a ‘Cacerolazo’ in reference to casserole stew pots used.
The image of ‘eyes’ has been a recurring theme, in reference to the hundreds that lost their vision during protests, after receiving rubber bullets to the eyes from security forces.
In many cities the names of those who have died in the uprising can be found painted on walls or murals.
‘White helmets’ are teams of volunteer health and human rights observers working daily. Greater access to widely privatized services such as healthcare has been a focal point to protests.
Huge police patrols have become a common sight in Chilean cities.
The flag of the Mapuche indigenous peoples has been a constant symbol. The Chilean people “nowadays understand the Mapuche people very well because their struggle has been criminalized,” as has that of the Mapuches for centuries, says Aucán Huilcamán of Mapuche Council of the Lands. Many protests motifs have depicted Mapuche leaders killed by security forces during the active conflict in the ancestral Aurucanía region.
Amnesty International have accused Chilean security forces of using ‘unnecessary and excessive force with the intention of injuring and punishing protesters as a deterrent.’ Including many cases of reported sexual violence used by security forces.
While abortion is predominantly illegal in Chile, aside from rare exceptions, gender equality has been a central demand, with millions marching for International Working Women’s day.
The new constitution will now be drafted 50% by women.
Crowds celebrate the ‘Approve’ vote for a new constitution, with 78% voting in favour of a ‘constitutional convention’, to be drafted and voted on in 2021 by a mix of newly elected representatives and currently serving politicians.
Many have called for a constitution written and voted on yet more directly democratic ‘constituent assembly’, a format different to elected citizen representatives offered in the national vote as ‘constitutional convention’.
Teargas is fired into protests as a dispersal tactic, despite being banned in warfare by the UN Chemical weapons convention and Geneva Protocol.
Protestors throw paint over armoured vehicles, that often fire rubber bullets or teargas into crowds.
In Valparaiso it has been common for large military vehicles to arrive unexpectedly in the small town centre, whilst people continue daily activities such as shopping.
After a year of mobilization, the ‘approve’ vote ended Pinochet’s dictatorship-era constitution. The Chilean people now face the task of collectively writing and passing a new constitution that will function for the majority of society.

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