‘We Have Nothing to Celebrate': Columbus Day Protesters Fill Streets of Santiago

Over 15,000 protesters gathered in Santiago, Chile on Saturday in an anti-Columbus Day demonstration to demand improved indigenous rights and a return of ancestral lands—521 years after Columbus began the European invasion of the Western Hemisphere.

The protest was organized by the country’s largest indigenous group, Organización Mapuche Meli Wixan Mapu, "who have been in a long struggle with the government over ancestral land taken from them during colonization," Al Jazeera America reports.

"We have nothing to celebrate” read a press release by Mapuche.

Police turned water cannons on the protesters and dispersed the crowd after several protesters had thrown rocks at the police.

The ongoing fight for indigenous land rights heated up on Wednesday, Santiago Times reports, when a major police operation arrested 8 Mapuche activists as Chilean security forces cleared indigenous occupants from disputed land.

"Mapuche press also reported major property damage and the killing of livestock," Santiago Times reports, "though the later was denied by local police chief Ivan Bezmalinovic."

Santiago times line-height:150%;font-family:"Verdana","sans-serif";mso-fareast-font-family:
"Times New Roman";mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"”> reports:

press release. "It has been applied in a confused and arbitrary fashion that has resulted in real injustice, has undermined the right to a fair trial, and has been perceived as stigmatizing and de-legitimizing the Mapuche land claims and protests.”

A separate anti-Columbus Day protest took place Saturday in Mexico City. 

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