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Credit: Simone Bruno

Yet underneath the peaceful, festive face of the protest seethed a palpable rage against the government of President Lucio Guttierez-accused of betraying the largely indigenous social movements that brought him to power two years ago. For the most part they vented their rage peacefully in the act of taking the streets itself; for three hours Quito was theirs, the whole city their audience.

But like many anti-globalization demonstrations, the peaceful atmosphere was, to a degree, sabotaged by the complimentary combination of violent anarchist thugs and violent police thugs. While the vast majority marched for peace, for the demilitarization of the Americas, against US imperialism, against Lucio Gutierrez, for a socially just future, they were held hostage by the mindless violence and vandalism of an unusually large group of ‘anarchists’ working for the police-consciously or no-for, their indiscriminate violence gave the police the excuse they needed to react.

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After the violent police and military repression of indigenous uprisings in 2000 and 2001, and of anti-FTAA protests in Quito in 2002-and with the sheer number of cameras rolling-the police were under pressure to stay calm. But, of course, given adequate reason they were more than willing to beat the bejesus out of anyone within tear-gas canister-shooting-distance.

Many in the march could understand the anger of these uber-aggressive elements, and had it been taken out only on McDonalds, or Starbucks they would likely have been supportive, at least tacitly so. But spray-cans in hand the encapuchados (hooded ones) menaced the population that had come out to see the march-who owned or worked in the small businesses that lined the streets along the route, who were in the wrong car at the wrong time.

Tiny family owned restaurants inexplicably became targets, their property broken, their windows and walls vandalized in the most mindless manner. No beautiful murals proclaiming the people’s right to public space here; only enough ugly scrawl to lay claim to the wall, to the city, and then off to the next corner store, or tiny clothing shop.

Their motives were made clear once the encapuchados ran into light verbal resistance in the form of an old pensioner charged with “guarding” a currency exchange booth. Armed with the standard shot-gun, he was spat on, hit with a metal rod, and subjected to the most macho humiliation tactics. And had he only lost control and reacted, opened fire, or even just fired a shot into the air, his fascistic tormenters would have succeeded in turning the whole march into a bloody mêlée.

“They’re infiltrators”, shouted one women angrily, pointing at a mob of masked men swarming a security guard and spraying paint in his face. “They came here from Colombia, from the Bandera Roja (anti-Chavez ultra-left) in Venezuela”, argued another marcher angrily; paid by the police, many people said with certainty, or perhaps even the CIA. Both possibilities would surprise very few people here, for these are old tactics, but whether paid and trained by the police/army/CIA or not, they are doing their work for them.

Soon after the encapuchado mob commandeered the atmosphere away from peaceful marchers, the police showed up in force, and began firing tear-gas at anything that moved. But it wasn’t only the police who were waiting for violence; the private media was surely ecstatic to have a negative angle from which to cover the whole forum land in their lap