ROME – As has become customary, Argentina’s “National Encounter of Women” on Sunday ended with violent protests that included bare-chested women throwing Molotov cocktails at a Catholic church and the City Hall in the city of Trelew, located some 700 miles south of Buenos Aires.
“Abort your heterosexuality,” “Church and State, separate affair,” “death to the macho is not a metaphore,” and “lesbianize yourself” were among slogans an estimated 50,000 women who rallied through downtown Trelew left behind, with graffiti scrawled on storefronts, privately-owned homes and churches.
Ten people were arrested in Trelew, located in the Patagonian province of Chubut. By Monday afternoon the demonstrators had been released, but videos showing the women throwing incendiary devices, stones and other objects at various public buildings beyond the church of Our Lady Auxiliadora are being investigated.
According to reports in social media from people on the ground, as the church was being attacked there were people inside praying in front of the Holy Sacrament.
— Malvinas Argentinas (@Abogadatrucha) October 15, 2018
The three-day event, held in different locations each year, includes workshops and cultural activities for women and transgender people. The 70 workshops this year touched on diverse topics including Women and Religions; Afro-American women; Women and Unemployment; Women and Health; Fat Activism; Women and Cannabis; and Women and Bisexuality.
The National Encounter of Women often ends with a rally, for the most part composed of peaceful women demanding “free, legal and safe abortion,” a legal framework for prostitution and an end to femicides, meaning the violent murder of women by their male partners. Yet recent years also have featured a small yet significant group of demonstrators who throw bottles full of gas into Catholic buildings and leave walls filled with profanities.
According to a civil organization called “Young people for family and life,” the government of Trelew had “advised” its population of 100,000, double the amount of people who participated in the feminist gathering, to stay in their homes during the rally and Catholic faithful to avoid going to church on Sunday.
National media had reported earlier on Sunday that a gas station had been temporarily closed for selling gas in plastic bottles to demonstrators.
This year’s event was particularly significant as it comes only months after Argentina’s Congress voted against a bill that would have legalized abortion on demand until week 14, something the group organizing the event has advocated for decades.
After the vote, participants in a pro-abortion rally ended by rioting, with pockets of women attacking several churches that are in the neighboring area of Argentina’s Congress. Foreseeing the possible attacks, the national government had barricaded several temples, including the Cathedral where Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, today Pope Francis, used to live.
In Argentina, abortion is illegal unless the life of the mother is threatened by pregnancy, and the right to life is constitutionally protected from “its conception until natural death.”
Last year, when the National Encounter of Women took place in Resistencia, topless and covering their faces, women assaulted the local cathedral while singing various chants, including “Church, trash, you’re the dictatorship,” “Take your rosaries out of our ovaries,” “To the Catholic, apostolic, Roman Church, that wants to place itself in our bed, we say that we want to be whores, transvestites and lesbians. Legal abortion in any place.”
According to several local news outlets, upon their arrival at the cathedral last year, the women participating in the ‘boob march’ used stones, tampons and pads with red paint, paint balloons, and even their own feces as projectiles.
They also set trash cans on fire and painted the walls of the nearby buildings near city hall. As a precaution, fences were put up protecting the religious buildings, targeted yearly by this rally.
Slogans included phrases such as “Death to the pope,” “castration for rapists,” “abort the macho,” “lesbianize yourself,” and “legalize cannabis.”