Tuesday, December 10, 2019

No + Gases

At some point last month in Chile I made the conscious decision that being repeatedly tear-gassed was going to be the price I’d have to pay for witnessing the Estallido Social. Being one of the few without a mask, it was not at all a pleasant experience, and the stuff was still seeping out of my pores a week or so after my last significant exposure. 

And yet I’m still only talking about a handful of time-limited incidents, not months of the stuff in the air around my home such as these unfortunate residents of blocks around the ex-Plaza Italia and Parque Forestal have had to endure. 

In Valparaíso’s Plaza Victoria I came across gangs of well-meaning, young, middle-class volunteers recruited by the Muni to scrub the fountains and paving stones clean of graffiti (at that moment doing harm to little more than their civic pride), while around a kilometer away - close to the congress and the bus terminal - there was so much teargas residue still on the ground and in the atmosphere, that Saturday shoppers were wet-eyed and wheezing all around me. There appeared to be more pedestrians with surgical masks than one typically comes across in Kyoto, yet there were still plenty of pensioners and little children without them. 

This was where the clean-up was most needed and where, along with a humungous sneeze, I felt the righteous anger welling up inside me. Unless the threat of lethal violence is incontestable, either the canisters fired by carabineros, or indeed in hand-held form as pepper spray, this is a chemical weapon banned by convention from military use and, as such, a coward’s weapon.

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