Bagota
People protest outside a police station after a man, who was detained for violating social distancing rules, died from being repeatedly shocked with a stun gun by officers, according to authorities, in Bogota, Colombia September 9, 2020. Image Credit: Reuters

Botoga: Seven people were killed in protests against police brutality in and around the Colombian capital of Bogota overnight, triggered by a widely-shared video of officers repeatedly tasering a man begging for mercy while onlookers filmed and urged the police to back off.

Police stations were destroyed, buses torched and banks attacked. The tasered man, Javier Ordonez, who is heard murmuring "Please no more" while armed officers overwhelm him, died several hours later.

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The clip was reminiscent of the events around the death of George Floyd during an arrest in Minneapolis in May, which began months of protests across the U.S. Before Covid-19, demonstrations had been spreading in Colombia, some of them focused on police abuse.

Some 114 police officers and 248 civilians - 58 by firearms - were injured in last night's unrest, Colombian authorities said.

Colombia's Inspector General's Office said it is opening an investigation into Ordonez's death. Two officers involved have been suspended. Semana magazine said the man was a 43-year-old lawyer and father of two.

President Ivan Duque, a conservative, has spoken out against police abuse, but the government called for Colombians not to stigmatize law enforcement officers.

Bogota Mayor Claudia Lopez, who is left-leaning, was more pointed in her criticism. She recorded on Twitter a statement hours after Ordonez's death, saying this wasn't a question of a few bad apples and called for "exemplary punishment" and "a structural reform that prevents and sanctions police abuses." She added, "Life is sacred!"

After the protests on Thursday, she also said, "I am completely aware that a structural reform of the police is needed, but destroying Bogota will not fix the police. No one was ordered to use firearms, much less indiscriminately. But we have evidence that this happened in several places. We are reconstructing events with victims and their families."

The demonstrations last November, set off by the death of a teenage protester in Bogota at the hands of anti-riot police, fueled weeks of protests.

Bogota had been slowly returning to normal after a lockdown to curb the coronavirus pandemic was lifted this month. Colombia's urban jobless rate soared to nearly 25 per cent during the crisis, potentially making the situation more combustible.