Our plan for the day had been to divide our delegation into three groups, with each group joining marches from different directions. At the last minute we were advised that the marchers coming in from the North, from Siguatepeque and La Esperanza, were the smallest group and thus thought to be the most vulnerable. As it turned out, they were also the group that was the farthest away from the city. Our whole delegation joined up with them, a group of about a thousand people who had been walking for the past week.
The march was spirited but disciplined. There were only a few police at the checkpoint coming into the city, and we passed by without incident. Everyone seemed a little on edge about the possibility of being attacked by the police. Fortunately that didn’t happen.
Since we were coming from the starting point farthest away of those marching, we arrived very late to the concentration in Tegucigalpa, at almost 2pm. In fact we got there so late that the program was already over. There had been a variety of speakers, including leaders from the Resistance Front, the First Lady and her daughter. We were not actually able to see the crowd at its peak, since some people had already started to disperse before we got there, but from the TV footage we saw later it was a massive crowd, most likely larger than the 500,000 people who some estimate were at the airport on July 5th. Reports are that there were more than 30,000 people at the concentration in San Pedro Sula, and no major incidents were reported.
At the end of the concentration closest to the Presidential Palace, a police and military blockade of perhaps 3,000 prevented the march from getting past. They were clearly under orders to avoid conflict with the crowds. Marshals from the demonstrations kept a line between the police and the crowd to prevent incidents from the other side.
As people began heading away from the concentration site, a group of young people began throwing rocks at a Pizza Hut and a Burger King which were at one end of the concentration. Marshals tried for a time to control this, but unfortunately there was no way that they could contain the outpouring of anger which was being expressed by these actions.
Later near the University some incidents began to unfold. Many stories about what transpired have circulated. The best that we have determined so far is that a traffic policeman shot someone from the group that was in the street. The people chased the officer, and he jumped on a bus. They managed to eventually stop the bus, at which time, the policeman fled, but the outraged crowd burned the bus. At some time a Popeye chicken outlet was set ablaze.
A curfew was put in place for all of Tegucigalpa from 10pm last night until 5am this morning.
Later last evening, the police surrounded the University were hundreds of people were spending the night and began firing tear gas and pepper gas into the University. They also had some kind of tank truck that sprayed dyed water on the crowd. These people were not necessarily involved in what had happened earlier on the streets, several blocks away. The people inside the University responded by throwing rocks at the police. It was reported that one person was wounded by a bullet, and at least 10 people were arrested. As the day goes on, we hope to have clearer stories and more official reports of all of the things which happened.
We also heard this morning that the union headquarters STIBYS, where another large group of people were sleeping was surrounded by police.
This morning there was an assembly at the University, and from there a march back to the Presidential Palace. By early afternoon we got word that the police had seized the sound system of the march and our delegation is on its way to witness events. We will keep you posted as more news comes in.
Photos courtesy of one of our delegates, Shaun Joseph. The entire gallery can be found here.