“It is clearly a political issue,” Spectator Felipe Castillo said. Photo EFE

TODAY COLOMBIA, Bogotá – Hundreds of protesters clashed with police forces and harassed spectators that were making their way to a bullring in Santamaría Plaza in the Colombian capital Bogota on Sunday, as bullfighting (corrida de toros) returned to the city for the first time in four years.

Some 1,200 police officers were deployed to control the protest.

Bogota’s previous leftist mayor outlawed bullfighting in 2012, but the constitutional court later overturned the ban, ruling that it was part of Colombia’s cultural heritage and could not be blocked. Photo:EFE

The clash between the fans of the bullfights and the anti-bulls and police left as many as 33 injured, including 3 police officers. In the air was the uncertainty and fear.

The fans of the bullfights are afraid of more violence similar to the first of the five bullfights of the  2017 seaon that runs until February 19. The question, then, is whether it is possible for the two sides to reach a consensus before the aggressions go on to escalate.

Protesters shouted, “how can you enjoy the pain of an innocent being?” Photo:EFE

In 2012, Bogota outlawed the bullfights. However, the ban was later overturned by Colombia’s constitutional court.

People marched wearing black t-shirts, and holding crosses and posters to request the suspension of those outcries at Bogota, where there were violent clashes between military troops in charge of guarding the place and demonstrators.

While the police justified the action of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (Esmad) on the grounds that some demonstrators wanted to cause any disorder, organizers of the such a mobilization stated that it was about a peaceful demonstration in which some individuals outside the group could succeeded in infiltrating the attack the military troops, El Espectador reported.

Approximately a thousand protesters demonstrated against the return of bullfighting to Colombia’s capital for the first time in four years. Photo:EFE

‘We are here rejecting the resumption of bullfights in our city, we will be permanently mobilized”, Camilo Pinto said. “It is a tradition, but no cruel tradition can last in time for ethical reasons that demand respect for the other”.

Bogota Security Secretary Daniel Mejía told reporters that they are evaluating some measures to avoid similar situations in the coming weekend.

The incumbent mayor, Enrique Penalosa, says he supports animal rights activists who oppose the tradition, but that he has no choice but to enforce the high court’s ruling.

Spectators added to the tensions, seemingly taunting protesters from the turrets of Bogota’s 1930s-era brick bullring, smiling and waving handkerchiefs in response to cries of “assassins” and “torturers.”

Every year, approximately 250,000 bulls are killed in bullfights worldwide, according to US-based Humane Society International.

Police responded with a heavy hand to the combative protesters, who were unafraid of confronting riot police. Photo:EFE
The incumbent mayor, Enrique Penalosa, says he supports animal rights activists who oppose the tradition, but that he has no choice but to enforce the high court’s ruling. Photo:EFE
According to local media, 18 people were arrested and 33 injured, including three police officers. Photo:EFE
Some 1,200 police officers were deployed to control the protest. Photo:EFE

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Article originally appeared on Today Colombia and is republished here with permission.