After the botanical gardens, Sam and I decided to go on a nice outing to the old part of town. It was sunny and hot, and we admired the old Spanish architecture as we made our way from the ecovia station up to the central square. To our surprise, the square was full. Not only was it full, but it was full of people with flags and spears, face paint, and riot gear.
Curious, we stuck around to find out what was going on. It turns out that the protesters were several hundred of the indigenous population who had come from everywhere from the jungle (oriente) to the Cayambe area. They had come to stand in front of the building in which Correa (the president) and several other political leaders were discussing a law about the privatization of water. The protesters were there to demonstrate their strong opposition to it, and planned to stick around as long as it took for a decision to be reached.
The riot police and army soldiers, overwhelming in numbers, mostly stood around bored or chatted with the protesters. This is not to say that the protesters were calm-there was continuos chanting, some poster burnings, a few spear shakings, and once some guys tried to climb up the building. However, it seemed pretty clear to everyone, despite the large numbers of the crowd and the copious weaponry of the police and soldiers, that this was not going to be a violent episode. The idea was just to make enough noise and commotion that Correa, in a conference room above with frosted windows, would hear and be reminded of the people's opinions.
It started to rain half-way through the afternoon,
and as people moved beneath trees and trash bags,
the police put on their helmets and used their shields as umbrellas.
We hung out (had some interesting conversations with some of the riot police and a few of the protesters) until late evening. The meeting had ended, but no one was coming out to announce the decision and the crowd was starting to move in a more agitated way. As it got dark and the decorative lights came on up on the church balconies, we took our leave. According to the newspaper (El Comercio) the next day the politicians did come to an agreeable decision in the end.