After their research and performance gave the world one of the most important battle cries against gender violence, the Chilean collective LasTesis faces charges brought by one of the most controversial police agencies in Latin American history.
The Chilean Carabineros police force filed a complaint against the feminist collective and creator of the world anthem “The Rapist Is You,” arguing that one of the videos that LasTesis posted on its social networks incited “confronting them with violence,” according to DW.
In the video filmed last May, the four members appear outside a police station in the port of Valparaíso, dressed in red jumpsuits, masks and a Chilean flag on a black cloth, while a female voice reads a text against Carabineros, the media added.
“They chase us, block the exits of our houses, provoke us, infiltrate us like demonstrators and begin to burn everything. They march armed through our streets. They throw gases, beat, torture, rape, destroy, and blind us. The government does not listen and renews the weapons of the police. Fire at the pacos (police), fire at the yuta (police),” they chanted in the video.
Although the collective deleted the original video, the institution filed a complaint with the Public Prosecutor’s Office for the crimes of assaulting authority and threats against Carabineros.
“It is worrying that activities such as those carried out by the group mentioned above could once again cause reactions of force and aggression against police units and their personnel, which far from being an isolated event at the beginning of the social contingency, from October 18, 2019, became a regular action,” argued the police force, referring to the social outburst experienced in Chile last year which claimed the profound social inequalities.
“Given the content and scope of the expressions reproduced above, directed against the Carabineros de Chile and its members, it is clear that the call in question is intended to create an intentional animus towards this institution,” the complaint reads. To this end, it continues, it highlights and accuses “in the first place, repressive and encouraging conduct against the physical integrity of the general public, in terms of alleged victims of police action, and then, ending the message of the video, calling with a clear intimidation towards the members of this institution.”
The complaint, filed on June 12 with the Public Prosecutor’s Office of the city of Valparaíso, also points to the responsibility of LasTesis for some of the acts of violence recorded in the country during the social explosion at the end of 2019.
Carabineros said that after the performance of the hymn against sexual violence “The Rapist Is You,” which was widely played at various times during the protests, “immediately there were serious incidents of disturbance of public order.”
For the Inter-American Committee on Human Rights, the reaction of the Chilean police force to criminalize artistic expression is a threat to the right to freedom of expression.
“Various media reported that the Carabineros Police of Chile’s Fifth Zone filed a criminal complaint with the Public Prosecutor’s Office of that zone for threats, attacks on authority and incitement to violence against the police, in which they hold a group of artists who make up the feminist collective LasTesis responsible for committing these alleged crimes,” the organization said in a statement.
According to available information, the IACHR adds, the complaint questions a series of songs and audiovisual performances performed by this group and broadcast on social networks.
“In particular, the police mention the performance called ‘The Rapist Is You’ which has become an emblematic expressive form of condemning gender violence in different parts of the region; and a second video in which this group of activists denounces police abuse in Latin America,” it added.
The IACHR revealed that the Chilean State informed the Rapporteur that this is a specific denunciation in relation to specific and determined facts, which could constitute common crimes, since the phrase “setting fire to the pacos (policemen)” could be considered incitement to violence. In fact, the Chilean Minister of the Interior, Gonzalo Blumel, himself supported the complaint lodged by the Carabineros.
“The Special Rapporteur recalls that under Article 13 of the American Convention, speeches on matters of public interest have reinforced protection, especially those that express essential elements of identity or denounce situations of violence and structural discrimination,” the organization warned.
It also explained the need to guarantee women’s rights to freedom of expression and access to information as a tool to combat gender-based violence.
The Commission highlights that the demonstrations by women human rights defenders, artists, and women’s collectives, which have expanded thanks to the role played by online protests, have been of great value in raising awareness about the persistence of a problem that impedes a woman’s right to enjoy a life free of violence.
For their part, more than 150 teachers, art historians, curators, critics and creators from Chile and Latin America have demonstrated their support for LasTesis and have denounced “the stigmatization and judicial persecution of feminist artistic manifestations” in the country.
As they explained in a statement, and as women linked to the arts and culture in Latin America who are “anchored to women’s struggles against patriarchal and state violence throughout the continent,” the reaction of the Chilean Carabineros is not alien to the country’s history.
“While expressing our open rejection of these types of restrictions on freedom of expression, which are intolerable in any state that considers itself democratic like Chile, we warn that, as was the case 50 years ago, these intimidating practices and symbolic, political and economic violence are carried out in conjunction with violations of the fundamental rights of broad sectors of the population,” they wrote, referring to the participation of the Carabineros in the Chilean military dictatorship between 1973 and 1990.
“We accuse the Chilean state of using practices of intimidation to mitigate the women’s movement in defense of their rights and living spaces,” the artists added.