On April 16, 2018, following a protest in Santiago by Chile’s National Student Federation, authorities reportedly ran over a student protester with a police car, severely injuring him.
The protesters had successfully applied for a permit to march, and had completed the protest, known as the March for Education, nonviolently. When the march was over, however, a group of students from the Arcis University were reportedly en route back to their campus when police began following them. According to eye witnesses, a police car ran over Christian García, a student protester from the university’s art faculty. Eye witnesses claim that the act appeared to be intentional, with one witness alleging that the car’s wheels had been turned toward the curb, where the students were walking. Other student protesters reported that, as they helped García to get out from underneath the police car where he had been pinned, police on the scene refused to provide them with assistance.
Police have alleged that García was guilty of wearing a hood during a protest – a crime under Chilean law – while witnesses maintain that he was wearing a mask as part of a costume connected to his membership in a dance group. Police reportedly attempted to handcuff García while he was in the hospital waiting for medical attention, although doctors successfully persuaded them to stop.
Doctors found that García suffered from multiple bone fractures in his hips, lumbar spine, one leg and one hand, and will be unable to walk for several months. García’s mother has brought criminal proceedings against the police, alleging that they are guilty of attempted manslaughter and abuse against civilians.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about violence by authorities, targeting students in an effort to retaliate against the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and academic freedom — conduct which is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such attacks threaten academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally. State and university authorities have a responsibility to prevent violence on campus, and to investigate and hold accountable perpetrators of such attacks.