Argentina was looking every which way but inward this morning as the country embarked on the traditional blame game between two sides of a polarised and angry society, one which is struggling to come to terms with a second day of violent clashes between police and protesters.
The police response to Monday’s violence was measured in comparison to Thursday’s when, in its attempt to contain the minority, it shot rubber bullets at journalists and arbitrarily detained protesters and passersby.
A source close to the government told the Times there was relief that the police had this time appeared in public opinion as victims.
Unlike Thursday when the Gendarmerie was deployed, this time the City Police took charge. By 2.30pm a small group of protesters on the southern side of the Plaza de Congreso began throwing rocks at police barricades. The police responded with tear gas.
As peaceful protesters — some individuals but mainly political groups, the overwhelming majority of those present at yesterday’s march — began moving backward toward the 9 de Julio de Avenue, the violence intensified. Soon, a police helicopter could be seen above the mass of people and began moving in accordance with where the violence was taking place.
As the clashes began, a large group of protesters on the northern side of Plaza de Congreso —who did not appear to be throwing stones or provoking police— remained in place. Soon, however, police shot tear gas that way and protesters of all types began evacuating the square.
With the majority evacuating, a small group waiting at Saénz Peña and Avenida de Mayo and carrying sticks and rocks, with their faces covered, began filing into the square.
By 3.30pm the majority of protesters had left or moved toward the Obelisk, where in the hours that followed a showdown began between police and a violent group of protesters.
Further up Avenida de Mayo people sat in cafés watching television screens in horror as bloodied police and protesters were hauled away.
“They got us this time but it’s a win for us, nonetheless, because Argentina is going to look terrible and nobody’s going to want to come here,” one protester, who admitted to throwing rocks at police, told the Times near Plaza de Mayo, where many had retreated.
As the violence wound down during the evening, pot-banging residents across Buenos Aires turned to an old tradition of protest while small groups of people met at major intersections to decry what was a shocking day in Argentine history.
And the blame game, which will likely last weeks, was already underway.