Crazy with Power: Riots in Colombia after police kills a man over “social distancing”


The death of a Colombian man after being repeatedly shocked with a stun gun by police who restrained him has sparked riots and protests throughout the Andean nation. The protests continued into Thursday morning and killed at least seven and wounded more than 150, the country’s defence minister said.

Javier Humberto Ordonez, a 46-year-old lawyer and father of two was allegedly violating coronavirus social distancing rules when he became involved in an altercation with police in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

In a video posted on social media by friends who were with him, Ordonez can be heard shouting, “please, no more, I’m suffocating” as two police officers continued to restrain him with their knees on his back and repeatedly tasing him. Ordonez was taken into police custody early on Wednesday where family members have alleged he faced more police abuse. He died in hospital soon after.

Colombia had a six-month coronavirus pandemic lockdown that began in late March, with the harsh restrictions eased two weeks ago.

Protesters took to the streets in Bogota on Wednesday afternoon, destroying the small police station that the responsible officers belonged to in the Engativa neighbourhood, in the west of the city. Violence continued and spread into the early hours of Thursday.

Bogota’s Mayor Claudia Lopez called the police brutality “unacceptable”, but also condemned the violence in Bogota that resulted in deaths.

“Yesterday, Bogota woke up with reason, in pain, protesting the death of a citizen because of police abuse,” the distraught looking mayor said in a Twitter video posted early on Thursday. “But today we wake up with not only one, but three dead, killed in protests and extended violence … destroying Bogota is not going to fix the police.”

Colombia’s defence minister, Carlos Holmes Trujillo, said on Thursday rioting had killed seven people in Bogota with more than 150 civilians and police injured across Colombia.

As the news of the alleged police brutality spread, protesters took to the streets on Wednesday night not only in Bogota, but also in the cities of Medellin, Pereida and Ibague, attacking police stations and public transport infrastructure.

“The reports of the events that occurred in the last hours reveals atrocity and vandalism. These events cast a shadow over society since they claimed human lives,” Trujillo said.

The government announced thetwo officers involved have been suspended pending an investigation, and an autopsy on Ordonez would be carried out.