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Nearly one million protesters flooded the streets of Santiago, Chile, on Friday, October 25, for a non-violent rally. The event, which spanned late into the night, was the culmination of a turbulent week — marked by state violence and demonstrations against systemic inequality in Chile.
As the protests rage on, the city’s arts organizations have begun to shutter for the safety of their employees and in solidarity with the protesters’ cause.
The 11th edition of the Contemporary Art Fair of Chile (Chaco), set to open on November 21, has been postponed until March 2020. Santiago Gallery Weekend was shuttered, and Aninat Gallery has also closed its doors temporarily.
“We’ve had to close early for safety reasons, our gallery staff are our priority right now,” Javiera Garcia-Huidobro, the director of Aninat, told the Art Newspaper. “I don’t mind losing out on sales. The artists that we work with, like many Chilean artists, are very political in their art and messages. It would be contradictory for us to be against these protests and represent the artists that we do.”
— Érika Ortega Sanoja (@ErikaOSanoja) October 26, 2019
The city, practically bursting with political momentum, reportedly halted to a stop on Friday due to massive crowds of people calling for the resignation of President Sebastián Piñera. As they marched, thousands, many of whom carried guitars across their chests, came together for a celebratory singing of “El derecho de vivir en paz” (“The Right to Live in Peace”) by Víctor Jara, a Chilean musician and activist who was killed under the dictatorial regime of Augusto Pinochet in 1973.
The protests were initially sparked by a fare hike in public transportation but swelled to encompass decades of income inequality and low wages across the South American nation. At least 18 have died and thousands have been arrested. The city has imposed a curfew and is still under a state of emergency.
Today, the Washington Post reported that Chile canceled two international summits as the protests continue. Donald Trump had been expected to sign a trade deal with China at one of the conferences, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, November 15-17.
The independent contemporary arts organization Sagrada Mercancía has been collecting and distributing supplies for the protesting civilians since Monday, October 21. They have launched a crowdfunding campaign to provide hosuing, medical, and legal aid.
On Instagram, the group writes (translated from Spanish):
SM will continue to be a center of resistance, a safe refuge, and a place to collect and distribute medical supplies for all those who fight against this model of injustice and against the terrorist state managed by the producers of death. Long live the awakening of the Chilean people and all the fighters who continue to forge the path of structural change. […] Pinera is a killer and systematic violator of human rights/We demand the resignation of the fascist pig and killer of the people of Chile.