In La Plata, a planned demonstration of workers from the Astilleros’ Rio Santiago Shipyard spontaneously turned violent this afternoon after protestors clashed with police. The confrontation culminated in stone throwing, rubber bullets, and tear gas. According to Todo Noticias, at least six people were detained by police, and twelve people were wounded, including officers and protesters alike.
— Diario 24 Noticias (@Diario24N) August 21, 2018
Police told La Nación that widespread public property damage occurred during the protests, including damage to two police cars that were destroyed during the confrontation between the demonstrators and the provincial security force. The incident also interrupted the memorial service happening nearby for Maria “Chicha” Mariani, the founder and second president of the Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo Association.
The conflict occurred during a time of peak tensions between the government of María Eugenia Vidal and the Astilleros workers’ unions. The strained relationship between the governor and the union was recently exacerbated when Jorge Lanata’s “Periodismo para Todos” program issued a report that ultimately demonstrated a certain degree of negligence and inactivity in the shipyard, blaming the unions for mismanagement. In response, the president of shipyard administration, Daniel Capdevila, accused the union of “fraudulent administration” and filed a complaint against them, without waiting for an official investigations to be carried out.
Meanwhile, the report was widely criticized by local unions and most Astilleros employees, who characterized the report as a politicized “media move” launched by the Vidal administration to discredit both the shipyard and the union.
The workers’ demonstration was organized as a response, called, according to the union, in “repudiation of the constant attacks by the authorities.” The workers had cut off access to the highway with the stated goal of “defending jobs,” and later gathered in large numbers in La Plata’s government seat across from Plaza San Martin.
However, according to reports, a small number of workers spontaneously turned to violence, throwing stones and trying to break into the government building. Police threw tear gas into the crowd as a response—which affected unruly and peaceful activists alike—and began arresting protesters.
The provincial head of Frente de Izquierda, Guliiermo Kane, told La Nación that the repression against protesting workers was disproportionate and brutal. “One worker lost a tooth, and they were hit by a jet from a high-pressure hose from the government building to repress the workers,” Kane stated.
In fact, a number of posts spreading across social media have denounced the police violence against protesters, with many posts stating that they had witnessed unwarranted repression of peaceful demonstrators.
Lo que el periodismo patrullero de La Nación y Clarín no muestra: el brutal arrollamiento de un patrullero a un laburante pic.twitter.com/ejfcB8y1W7
— Pablo Anino (@PabloAnino) August 21, 2018
Meanwhile, a close associate of Governor Vidal told La Nación that, at the time of the confrontation, several windows of the government building had been shattered by protestors.
“People were all of a sudden in a frenzy, and I didn’t know what was happening. The stones broke several windows of the government building. On the other side of the windows, there were people working as they always do,” said the source, adding that several cars in the vicinity had also been vandalized, and that a number of nearby stores had had to close.
Meanwhile, the president of the block of Buenos Aires Senators of Civic Unity FPV, Teresa García, stated: “The government has been preparing to repress the workers for weeks. In the midst of an economic crisis, with layoffs and runaway inflation, today’s outcome seemed pre-written. We call on Maria Eugenia Vidal to reflect upon the situation. The people of Buenos Aires do not need sticks and rubber bullets. We need to place families as the first priority of the Buenos Aires Government. “