As Friday night marked exactly a month since the mysterious disappearance of 28-year-old Santiago Maldonado, protests across the country took place, some of them turning violent and including Molotov cocktails and the destruction of private property. In the end, 31 protesters were arrested in the City on charges of “public harassment and resisting authority.” After many hours of investigation and much public outcry, eventually 30 of the individuals were freed on Sunday outside.
It was surprising though, to see Mayor Rodríguez Larreta reaching out to his Facebook followers and asking if any of them wanted to volunteer to fix the mess and the damage that was left in the area once the situation was again under control.
Over the weekend the affected historic buildings were repainted and damaged garbage containers and lamps were cleaned up and replaced. However, along streets like Avenida de Mayo, Diagonal Sur, 9 de Julio and Belgrano, there were about 120 shops and various building fronts that had also been damaged during the protest and needed help getting back on their feet.
Larreta wrote that reparations would cost the city and it’s residents around 6 million pesos and that even though the clean up process had already begun, they needed help. So the mayor took to Facebook to ask: “Do you want to join? Can we do it together?” Rodríguez Larreta ended his post with a photo of graffitied buildings and a link for sign up shifts and specified that volunteer work would begin at 8 AM yesterday morning.
The Mayor announced that over 2000 people had signed up to volunteer through social media but “due to logistical reasons,” only a limited number of about 40 people could get together at the Plaza. Volunteers from different neighborhoods came out, such as Elena Molina, a retired resident of the Monte Castro neighborhood, who told La Nación: “We were summoned to help and since the city belongs to everyone I felt like I had an obligation to do it. On Friday night I turned on the TV and saw all of this. I felt helpless, I felt bad as a citizen, to see how they left the Cabildo. It was astonishing. I like to be close to neighbors, I do it from my heart.” Other residents such Raquel Martínes of Balvanera helped with all types of volunteer work such as repainting shutters and walls on Avenida de Mayo between Peru and Chacabuco. Martínes explained her reasoning for coming out to help as well, stating, “I went because as a citizen I like that my city is clean and I like to be aware of somehow taking care for it is ours.”
Also throughout the day, Eduardo Macchiavelli, Minister of Environment and Public Space of the City of Buenos Aires and Secretary General of the PRO Capital, posted photos of residents coming together to volunteer to clean up the street. Larreta stayed vigilant throughout the weekend to defend both the city residents and police force, emphasizing, “we want to quickly overcome this situation of violence that was generated on Friday.” He made sure to note that besides a small group, “the vast majority [of protests] demonstrated in a peaceful way… In addition, of course we join the Maldonado family in this moment of concern and pain that they are going through.”