In photos: Medellín marches for the lives of social leaders

Thousands of people in Medellín protest violence against social leaders, for whom Antioquia is deemed to be a high-risk department.

Social leader killings Colombia "Building a different country is costing us our lives. #BeingASocialLeaderIsNotACrime," read a banner paying homage to María Pilar Hurtado, a social leader murdered in June. Photo by Felipe Bedoya.

On Friday, July 26, thousands of people took to the streets across Colombia and in cities worldwide to protest against the violence towards social leaders and human rights defenders taking place in the country.

In Medellín, demonstrators began protesting at Parque San Antonio in the city center. From there, the march continued along the Avenida Oriental and up to Parque Bicentinario, home to the city’s Casa de la Memoria museum.

Antioquia is one of the departments that has been deemed “at risk” by the government-implemented Opportune Action Plan (PAO) to protect social leaders, human rights defenders, community leaders and journalists. According to Caracol News, 73 social leaders have been assassinated since 2016, and have received well over a thousand attacks and threats against their lives

Social leaders killings Colombia
Two young men cover their upper bodies with messages of “Not One More” and “They’re Killing Us.”
(Photo by Felipe Bedoya)
Social leader killings Colombia
Students from Medellín’s Pontifical Bolivarian University (UPB).
(Photo by Felipe Bedoya)
Social leader killings Colombia
“You don’t know who I am? I’m a daughter and a social leader,” read a student’s placard.
(Photo by Felipe Bedoya)
Social leader killings Colombia
A woman holds up a cardboard silhouette of a body during a performance protest to represent those of murdered social leaders.
(Photo by Felipe Bedoya)
Social leader killings Colombia
UPB students jump, shouting “respect the people!!”
(Photo by Felipe Bedoya)
“Building a different country is costing us our lives. #BeingASocialLeaderIsNotACrime,” read a banner which paid homage to María Pilar Hurtado, a social leader murdered in June. Pilar’s murder was brought to the entire country’s attention after a video of her son screaming in distress over her dead body went viral online.
(Photo by Felipe Bedoya)

As the ground trembled with jumping groups of protesters chanting “fight fight fight, don’t stop fighting!” one man — who preferred to remain anonymous — spoke to Latin America Reports.

“I’m here because I’m worried that they are killing people,” said the 60-year old social sciences teacher, originally from the municipality of Titiribí. “We all have the right to live,” he added.

Describing the governmental response to the crisis as “weak,” the teacher claimed that the situation had been addressed with “ambivalence, little clarity and not enough force,” by President Iván Duque’s government. Despite the measures it has put in place, figures from local NGO Indepaz indicate that 623 social leaders and human rights defenders have been assassinated in Colombia since the signing of the peace accord in November 2016. 

Social leader killings Colombia
An older man flies a flag for the leftist Patriotic Union political party.
(Photo by Felipe Bedoya)
Social leader killings Colombia
Members of the communist Common Alternative Revolutionary Force (formerly FARC) party came out to protest.
(Photo by Sophie Foggin)
Social leader killings Colombia
A young male paints his back with the message “Thinking differently shouldn’t cost us our lives.” On his torso is a river surrounded by skulls and a signpost that reads, “Life or Death?”
(Photo by Sophie Foggin)
Social leader killings Colombia
The Itagüí Round Table for Victims was one of the many round tables present in the protest.
(Photo by Sophie Foggin)
Social leader killings Colombia
A young protester stands in the middle of a parachute marked with the words “no violence.”
(Photo by Sophie Foggin)
Social leader killings
“Sorry to disturb. They’re killing us!” reads a placard held by three by-passers watching the protest from the side of the street.
(Photo by Sophie Foggin)

Read more: What is the government’s current commitment to protecting social leaders in Colombia?

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