The general opinion seems to be that for Chile to grow stronger it needs to make the education system more affordable. There have been many protests during our time here but yesterday saw the largest student protest so far. The length of the march was easily five kilometres and in Santiago it was much more.
There was almost a festive feel to the march with a mix of costume, dance and percussion. Perhaps what made this demonstration different was the size and organisation that went into it. It wasn’t just a noisy bunch of students roaming the streets. This march involved students and educators. The main theme was how unaffordable quality education is and that it’s infecting Chile’s chance of growth. There were more zombies, coffins and walking dead than a Steven King novel.
At the end of most protests the police come in with their water cannons and tear gas. The other day we were travelling past Parliament House, where the marches always finish, and everyone in the bus started sneezing and tearing. Our throats started to hurt and there was a hot peppery sensation on our tongues. It would appear that tear gas residue remains in the air for a long time. Perhaps it could be called collateral damage but why should our family have to suffer from tear gas when we have nothing to do with the protests and we always stay away from any demonstrations. Understandably the students feel like they have two fights on their hands, one with the government and the other with the police. Some of the students had made elaborate mock-ups of the police officers and their vehicles.
It seems like the government doesn’t have an effective solution for this problem.