Violent clashes between police officers and protesters broke out in the Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires on December 18 during demonstrations against government reforms of the pension system. Of the many photos and videos that circulated online after the clashes, one video was particularly shocking: It showed two police officers on a motorcycle running over a young protester.

On December 18, thousands of protesters gathered in the streets of Buenos Aires, many around the Congress building. They were demonstrating against a bill currently under debate in parliament that aimed to modify the way that government pensions are calculated.

The government says that the reform will help reduce the country’s deficit and maintains that the buying power of retirees won’t be affected. However, opposition parties and unions say the reforms would actually lead to major cuts in pension payments, especially among the most vulnerable members of the public.

The bill would also raise the mandatory retirement age in the private sector from 65 to 70 for men and from 60 to 63 for women.

Most of the protesters – who answered the unions and opposition parties’ calls to demonstrate – did so in a peaceful manner. However, clashes did break out at several locations.

Some people on the fringes of the protest threw rocks at security forces, who, in turn, fired rubber bullets, released tear gas and used water cannons. The country has not experienced such violence since the 2001 economic crisis.

In total, around 60 people were arrested and 162 wounded – half of whom were police officers – according to emergency medical care providers.

An open stomach wound

One of the injured was the young man crushed by a police motorcycle, as shown in the video below.

WARNING: SOME VIEWERS MAY FIND THIS VIDEO SHOCKING


This video shows policemen on a motorcycle shooting at people. One young man, wounded by the police bullets, falls to the ground (0’05’’). Next, two policemen riding a motorcycle slow down, then run him over (0’10’’).

In a photo taken by journalist Mario Quinteros, you can see an open wound on the left side of the young man’s stomach.

Another video shows how several people, including an emergency responder, immediately went to help the young man. A third video, filmed by private media company Crónica Televisión, shows police officers on motorcycles driving by the wounded man several times without stopping to offer assistance. Finally, about 10 minutes later, an ambulance arrived at the scene.

The injured man was a 19-year-old cardboard maker, according to the apolitical, social organisation Movimiento de Trabajadores Excluidos, which brings together workers, especially those who work in cardboard and textiles.
 

Another demonstrator hit by a police vehicle

People in Argentina were also shocked by other photos and videos that emerged from the protests.

"Now, the police are running over a pensioner. Please retweet!" wrote Juan Elman, the man who filmed the video.

 

The footage shows a police car running over a man wearing a white jacket (0’04’’). You can hear people yell and come towards him. "It’s a pensioner!" one man yells several times. The car keeps driving.

Juan Elman, who filmed the video, wrote on Twitter:

I am still in shock after what I saw today. […] We were covering [what happened] for @pucheronews. I saw a police van run over a pensioner, just a few metres from where I was standing.

This police car was going after protesters, but not those who were violent. Only a tiny minority of the protesters were violent. We interviewed many others, who didn’t want any violence to occur.

I’ve never seen anything like it. We had to run twice to flee the brutality of the security forces.


Numerous reports of police firing

In other footage circulated online, you can hear or see police officers shooting. While there were no eyewitness reports of live ammunition being fired, many reported rubber bullets being used.


"This is how the police in the city of Buenos Aires, on motorcycles, shoot towards protesters demonstrating peacefully.”

"SHAMEFUL: In this way, the Argentine federal police used rubber bullets to punish protesters who were singing and clapping in a peaceful manner.”

Police officers shoot (left) and tear gas used to disperse protesters (on the right).

The protesters weren’t the only one targeted, according to the Buenos Aires press union, which stated that “21 members of the press who were working were hit by rubber bullets. Three journalists were hit by tear gas and nine others were attacked by fringe groups. In total, 33 colleagues were wounded and four were arrested.”

 

Protesters also violent

However, other videos attest to the violence perpetrated by other parties. The footage below shows a woman demolishing a wall with a hammer.

Clashes also broke out on Thursday, December 14, on the fringes of another protest against reform of the pension system. Because of this, the parliamentarians were forced to delay their examination of the bill until the next Monday.

But this time, the protests weren’t enough to halt the parliamentarians. They adopted the reform on Tuesday, December 19.
 

Article written with
Chloé Lauvergnier

Chloé Lauvergnier , Journaliste francophone