Nicaragua Protest March: “They Were students, Not Criminals!”

The “miniscule” expressed themselves. The “miniscule” marched by the hundreds, by the thousands. A multitude of Nicaraguan citizens walked from the Metrocentro Mall to the Polytechnic University of Nicaragua (Upoli), to express their solidarity with the students, and their rejection of the violence deployed by the government against the protesting population, with a death toll around 30. 

The original route of the march drawn up by the private sector was modified by the self-convened citizens towards the Upoli, the university bastion that has not yet been broken by repression. On their way, protesters painted red on the facade of the National Police headquarters in Plaza el Sol as a protest against the murders of the students.

Several Ortega-Murillo symbols were taken down by the protesters. The huge billoards with the faces of the presidential couple were downed and in their place Nicaraguan flags were raised.

It was an act of freedom … freedom to attend or not; freedom of expression, which manifested itself in the irreverent creativity of citizens, with phrases such as “if being a university student means being a gang member [as the presidential couple called them], then I am also a gang member.”

The march was initially called by the Private Enterprise Council (Cosep), the American Chamber of Commerce of Nicaragua (AmCham), the Nicaraguan Commission for Micro, Small and Medium Businesses (Conimipime), plus UniRSE and universities. However, citizens of all social classes joined in claiming as their own the memory of those killed and asked for justice for those responsible. The march also requested the departure of the government of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo.

Carlos Herrera | Confidencial

“This is no longer just about the INSS” (Nicaraguan Institute of Social Security), could be seen on some banners. “It’s because of the dirty elections, the reforms to the constitution and for Ortega’s decreeing whatever laws he desires. For killing the kids,” said Carlos López, a civil engineer.

The bankers and office workers left behind their rigid formal clothes for the afternoon; they took off their ties, and put on jeans, T-shirts, comfortable shoes, and made use of caps, hats and sunglasses to walk comfortably. It was a march of people from all social classes.

“It’s impressive how many people are here. This is a message, a clear signal. This exceeded the expectations that we had formed from the messages sent to us by the different groups confirming they would attend, “said Jose Adan Aguerri, president of Cosep.

In addition to being fed up with the presidential couple, the protesters walked for more than three hours to show their sympathy with a group of rebellious students who have seen their friends fall, but haven’t surrendered to police troops armed with modern assault rifles, tear gas, and all the strength of the state, reinforced with hordes of criminals recruited by Ortega’s people from the surrounding neighborhoods.

Aguerri said that “a message of support is being sent here to young people killed in this struggle in which the concerted efforts of youth has been decisive to awaken public awareness, in addition to stating that they were students, not gang members.”

The beginning

Carlos Herrera | Confidencial

Since long before 3:00 p.m., when the march was called, the slogan “They were not criminals they were students,” was heard.

As people tried to arrive at the Metrocentero roundabout the surrounding streets were full of citizens carrying blue and white flags to express their hope of having a better country.

“Young people have to be present in the dialogue. That is a right won. This is a must that the guarantor commission will have to work to include them, although it has to include all the actors of society: academia, private sector, workers, evangelical churches, and include all national issues that are of interest,” said Aguerri.

The discovery of a drone that flew over the march captivated the attention of those present, who at first booed it, until someone fired a flare in the direction of the flying object, whose operator had to maneuver it to avoid danger. Shortly after, the firing of a mortar in the direction of the artifact, forced them to remove it completely.

Although it is not known who operated it, the drone retreated in the direction of Plaza el Sol, headquarters of the National Police.

When the march passed in front of the police headquarters it served as a respite as people shouted “murderers” to the officers trained in a preventive attitude, to then invite them to join the march.

Oscar Sobalvarro, a former leader of the Contra, said that “the citizens are realizing that the students who started this protest are not alone. Here is the Nicaraguan people, supporting the struggle of the students, which at first was for the Indio Maíz reserve [where a huge fire broke out], then was over the INSS (Social Security), but now we see that it is because the people are tired of the Ortega government.”

In the end, thousands of throats, hundreds of banners, dozens of slogans, and a single feeling, a single truth, a single longing, a single dream repeated loudly or silently, that it’s time for Daniel and Rosario to go.   

It now appears for many that the only thing that can be discussed with the dictatorship is their departure from power.

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