Responses to the Coup d'etat in Honduras on Sunday June 28, with special emphasis on producing English-language versions of commentaries by Honduran scholars and editorial writers and addressing the confusion encouraged by lack of basic knowledge about Honduras.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Protests Tear Gassed in San Pedro Sula

Early this afternoon, Radio Globo and Vos El Soberano report, that a peaceful protest that was marching towards the center of San Pedro Sula was dispersed with tear gas and water canons. Tiempo reported that 5 people were arrested, and a further 4 hurt, including a Reuters cameraman. The clash between protesters and the military was broadcast live on channel 6 in San Pedro Sula.

Radio Uno reports that 30 military are camped out on the first floor of its offices trying to get in to shut it down.


Pete said...

Yes, I watched it live on Channel 6.

I suppose that the vandalised vehicles shown were attacked by the police as they obviously couldn't have been damaged by the "peaceful" protesters.

RAJ said...

We don't know who vandalized cars, and neither, we would point out, do you. No matter what the broadcast you watched said, you are dependent on what are known to be the most biased media in the region, and they have an interest in framing a peaceful demonstration as mob violence. That way, smug supporters of a coup d'etat can continue to reject the voices of other citizens who object strenuously to having the elections of 2005 reversed by the military, and who are demanding not to be forced to vote in an election held under the shadow of denial of rights of free assembly, freedom of speech, and other fundamental civil rights.

There is no doubt that this protest began as an entirely peaceful march. The Quixote Center and other international human rights organizations committed to non-violence were present in San Pedro Sula to witness the march and the repression by the police.

Here is the first paragraph of the Quixote Center report; let's see you spin this to fit your preconceptions:

A peaceful march of over 500 people was just culminating at the Central Park of San Pedro Sula when a large armored tank with high pressure water cannons mounted on the top pulled up at the rear of the march - along with a large truck full of military troops. The 500 peaceful, unarmed protesters turned around to face the tank and troops - and in unison, they sat down in the middle of the street. The truck retreated 2 blocks. The soliders got off the truck , and began to put on gas masks. Everything went silent - and suddenly the crowd was attacked with water cannons and gas. People are fleeing. There are wounded and detained. The QC Delegation is fleeing the scene at this moment and will send reports.

RAJ said...

More from the Quixote Center, whose courageous witnessing we encourage others to read, on their delegation in San Pedro Sula:

We just returned from the downtown square in San Pedro. The people decided to march into the core from a location about a kilometre away from the square. Such a protest is illegal under this coup regime; after gathering for about an hour the protestors decided to march and the crowd gathered steadily as they approached the market square. The police were making a visible presence with large weaponse showing, ahead and behind the march. Upon gathering at the square the police blocked the protestors in with their police in riot gear and a water cannon. The protestors faced the police and water cannon and sat down peacefully singing their anthem. The climate was tense; the police then fired tear gas into the crowd and advanced with the water cannon, chasing the protestors through the streets. We managed to get to safety and then came back to the square to see some people who had been beaten by the police. We are hearing that voter turn out at polling stations is very low. We will be going soon to polling stations now to observe for ourselves.

Scott Marshall
Common Frontiers

And this more recent report from beautiful San Pedro Sula, the city we love and for which we mourn:

QC Delegation reports that the military crackdown in San Pedro Sula continues. The downtown area is totally militarized with groups of security forces armed with M-16's are positioned on every corner for 10 square blocks. People on the street are grabbed and detained - tear gas canisters are thrown into the streets to disperse people. A helicopter if flying overhead. The full number of wounded and detained is not yet known.

Pete said...

I asked a simple question - who damaged the vehicles?

Obviously, you don't know either.

But I enjoyed reading your spin.

RAJ said...

Review of all the available Spanish-language reporting on the incident in San Pedro today fails to support Pete's inference that the demonstrators initiated violence.

Pro-coup Honduran paper La Tribuna claims that the patrol attacked in response to demonstrators throwing stones.

But independent media, such as the Costa Rican Nacion, that also reported stone throwing, tell a different sequence of events:

The police moved toward the protest and when they approached the demostrators sat down in the street. The authorities then fired on them with high pressure water guns and a little later tear gas, which set off a brief confrontation in which some threw stones and objects against the uniformed offiers.

The Spanish El Mundo adds that demonstrators broke glass, while not providing a clear description of the sequence of events.

But this contradicts a more detailed report published by the Argentinian paper, Diario Los Andes which says the cars were damaged by police seizing their drivers:

The police also repressed [the demonstration] shooting water from water cannons, as well as following the demonstrators and detaining various of them. The agents broke the glass of at least two cars that were passing by the street and they punctured the tires, and they pulled one of the drivers out of the car and beat him.

Like the driver, there were various wounded with blows to the head, in the face and in the temples during the incidents. The strong police presence approached the demonstrators in the Parque Central of the economic capital of the country, who demanded "the return of Mel".

I do not expect Pete to ackowledge it, but the police are as likely responsible directly for damage as the protestors; and the police appear to have provoked a confrontation in which some marchers may have been pushed to defend themselves or others by throwing stones in the face of tear gas, water cannons, and beatings.

RAJ said...

Pete, you either need a compassion implant or a patience pill. Read the report above.

RAJ said...

BTW, "spin" is not usually accepted as the label for eye-witness reports from internationally recognized monitors. "Spin" is what you are doing: reporting your prejudices without regard for the facts.

Pete said...

The march was illegal. The protesters blocked the road and refused to move. The police carried out their duty and moved the protesters.

Spin it as much as you want.

BTW, watch the election results at 7pm and prepare for a surprise.

But then, you'll spin them as well.

RAJ said...

Ah, Pete. Your anger at unarmed, peaceful people who will not accept your view of the world indicts you. That does not require spin; it is self-spinning.

Compassion implant, definitely, is what you need.

Unarmed people expressing their opinion are made illegal by the decrees of a regime that seized power against all constitutional requirements and in violation of international expectations. That regime has consistently used illegal decrees to cut off civil rights absolutely guaranteed by the constitution they claim to be defending.

And when, in the ultimate gesture of civil disobedience, they sit down, peacefully, you think that justifies water cannons and tear gas? If you know San Pedro Sula as well as I do, you know that the people occupying the Central Park were not impeding anyone from circulating around the city. What they were doing was making it impossible for people like you to ignore dissent. And people like you want so very badly to pretend that everyone in Honduras agrees with you, despite polls showing from half the people to majorities do not.

And for spin, there is nothing to beat your change of position here: initially, the protestors were bad because you thought they were the ones who damaged cars. What happened to your outrage about that, now that you cannot refute unbiased press reports of police breaking car windows?

As for the election results: what do you think can be reported at 7 PM? as all the world knows, the election has been called for Pepe Lobo by news media; but that announcement cannot tell us what the turnout was. Pepe Lobo winning is no surprise. Nor will it be surprising when the TSE announces "massive turnout" despite the reports of independent observers who saw light turnout.

Will we automatically accept the results from the TSE? nope. And that won't be unique to us. Nor does it qualify as spin. Spin is the de facto regime claiming that it held a free and fair election-- ignoring the repression of protesters in Honduras, ignoring military raids on resistance throughout the country. Now, there's spin.