On September 24, security forces reportedly used violent force against students from Francisco José de Caldas District University (FJCDU) during an anti-corruption protest.
FJCDU students had gathered at Carrera 7, a busy street in front of the university, to protest allegations of corruption in the university that appear to have been sparked by accusation that one professor had been using a university credit card for personal use.
Student protesters gave speeches and shouted anti-corruption slogans. When the protest reportedly blocked traffic on Carrera 7, officers from the Mobile Police Riot Squadron (ESMAD) arrived on the scene and began firing stun grenades and tear gas at the students. Some protesters reportedly responded by throwing stones at officers.
Students from Javeriana University, located across Carrera 7, who had been witnessing the clashes, shouted their support for the FJCDU students. ESMAD officers reportedly fired tear gas and stun grenades at the Javeriana University students as well. The tear gas and stun grenades reportedly affected patients and staff from the nearby university hospital.
Sources indicate that several individuals were injured and at least two students and one professor were arrested in connection with the protest. Their university affiliation and the grounds of their arrest have not been publicly disclosed.
One day after the FJCDU protest, students from various universities in Bogotá held protests decrying ESMAD’s violent response. These protests were marked by violent tactics employed by security forces and some protesters (see report).
Scholars at Risk is concerned about violence during student protests. While state authorities have a responsibility to ensure security, they have an obligation to ensure that their actions are proportionate, do not harm members of the higher education community, and are not undertaken to restrict or retaliate against peaceful expressive activity. Such incidents undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.