Make no mistake: Facundo died after the police threw him to the ground, beat him, and suffocated him. The moment replays in my head in a constant loop, sending chills down my spine every time I think of it.
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — On August 8, protesters gathered at the Buenos Aires Obelisk to make several demands, including better government assistance for the unemployed in Argentina. I attended the event as a photojournalist. As the march began, police officers grew more violent. The situation worsened when authorities started grabbing protesters. I watched as the police forcibly pinned people’s faces to the cold tiles of the Obelisk. Some of the protesters began shouting for help, saying they were choking. I came closer to them, filming everything as I advanced, and asked the people to state their names.
I wanted to make sure I got everything on tape in case it helped them later on. Suddenly, I realized one of the protesters, long-time journalist and activist Facundo Molares, became unresponsive. His face looked badly beaten and his body was lifeless. Fear and anxiety gripped me as I assumed the worst. “He’s purple, turn him over,” I shouted. Sadly, it was too late.
As my video camera rolled, capturing the entire event, the police knocked Facundo down and immobilized him using excessive force. You can hear me shouting that he was hurt and having a heart attack, but the police refused to stop. Instead of giving him first aid, they kept restraining him. Their neglect and negligence looked cruel, made worse by a delayed ambulance. Watching them kill Facundo is something I will never forget.
Working as a photojournalist in Argentina, I mainly document indigenous communities and this day I headed to cover another event when I stumbled upon the protest and the Obelisk. Police cars and guards surrounded the entire area. People were beginning to leave, so I slowly walked toward them to see what was happening. Suddenly, I spotted Facundo approaching.
Right in front of me, authorities formed a line to prevent passage and began pushing people out of the way. When the situation escalated, I pulled out my phone to start a live Instagram video. Struggling to digest the scene in front of me, I focused on the content I created in the hopes of ensuring the protesters’ safety. I felt my survival instincts kicking in.
My body entered a different state of existence as I witnessed the violence; I became more alert. I followed Facundo with the lens of my camera, watching as police officers rapidly surrounded him. Before my very eyes, I saw them beat him until he lost consciousness.
Make no mistake: Facundo died after the police threw him to the ground, beat him, and suffocated him. The moment replays in my head in a constant loop, sending chills down my spine every time I think of it. The images bring me back to that exact moment, when my body went into shock.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I ran away, terrified for my own life after witnessing Facundo’s life slowly drain out of his eyes. No words can express the pain I felt in my heart. As much as I felt scared and traumatized, I knew this footage needed to come to light.
Recently, I went to Facundo’s wake and talked to his father, who is a wonderful man. Seeing their family’s strength and grief gave me the courage to openly share my story. As much as I felt scared and traumatized, I knew this footage had to come to light. Even as I review the tapes, I remember the exact moment they took him from us.
Some people tried to get Facundo out of their grips, but the officers stopped them. The shocking photos I took cannot begin to describe the true violence, cruelty, and complete lack of humanity that unfolded in front of me. I hope that with all the evidence before us, we can hold those responsible accountable for their actions.
All photos are courtesy of Susi Maresca.
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