One detonation. Then two more. Is it starting? Or is it a car backfiring? I look at the time: it’s only six minutes past noon. “It’s too early for repression,” I think to myself.

It’s Tuesday. The opposition called a six hour “trancazo” – street closure – starting at noon. On days like today I put up the blinds and leave the window open with the camera nearby, just in case I have to record something.

Just in case, I check. Twitter. “La Candelaria neighbors try to negotiate with the PNB (National Bolivarian Police)”; “The PNB repress a protest by neighbors of La Candelaria.”

Okay, they were the real deal.

From my window I can see out over the Sambil de La Candelaria – long-ago meant to be a shopping mall, really a long-term squat – and also Residencias Parque Caracas, as well as the street in front of the Luis Razetti clinic. The Banco Provincial tower and the Venezuelan Red Cross are not much further on.

It’s a natural convergence point for protesters coming from Avenida Andrés Bello, Avenida Mexico and Avenida Urdaneta, three of the biggest in the city. Geography is one big reason protests in La Candelaria are so big and unpredictable.

Insults give way to panicked screaming.

Down below, the cacophony of horns from cars trying to escape the mayhem goes on and on, mixed with the roar of motorcycle engines. Quick, to the window. The PNB is withdrawing. Apparently, the situation calmed down.

“¡Activos, vecinos! ¡Colectivos!” (We’re on, neighbors! Colectivos are coming!), shouts a neighbor from an upper floor.

“¡Malditos!”

“¡Asesinos!”  

That’s all you hear from the buildings. The alert gets passed around like this – via literal word of mouth. To the window, turn on the camera, zoom in, frame, record. People on the street run and hide. On the avenue there are one, three, ten… forty bikes with driver and parrillero (companion). Loud bangs announce their arrival. Damn, the video doesn’t really show it clearly.

The bikers rummage through their bags, out come the guns.

Insults give way to panicked screaming.

They move forward slowly, looking for targets. Soon they’re shooting within inches of the nearby buildings. The shots are met with bottles thrown from windows high above. 

The roar of motorcycles fades. The neighbors – demonstrators from the comfort of their own balconies – respond with more bottles, bags of ice and garbage.

My neighbors go back down to the street, despite the mayhem. Tweet. With the aid of a bag of oranges and whatever debris they find lying around, they start improvising barricades at three points on the street: at the ends and in the middle.

On a nearby corner, passers-by stop to watch; like a soccer game that could not be seen at home. Cellphone rings. Incoming Whatsapp message: “Chama, colectivos beat up Carlos and stole his phone. Be on your guard if you’re out on the streets.”

―”Who are we?!” someone shouts.

―”Venezuela!” people answer.

­―”What do we want?!”

Libertad!

The applause and slogans accompany the search for materials for the barricade. From the buildings, the barricade makers are monitored, advised and instructed. They keep watch.

“¡Vecinos, activos! ¡Vienen por el Sambil!” (Neighbors, we’re on! They’re coming from the Sambil!) shouts the neighbor from above. The pack reappears, but in PNB uniform. Indifferent to the insults, they settle at the exit of the Sambil parking lot.

They huddle. They seem to be working out their tactics: the largest group is watching the demonstrators and buildings, another goes to the next corner to launch the offensive. The barricade-makers run, I hear detonations. They are not going to give in.

More bottles rain down, more trash, more containers with ice and also stones.

The cops go to the entrance of a nearby parking lot, protected by their shields. They collect rocks, throw them, shoot, try to cover more spaces. A few cross the street and take refuge to continue with the offensive. Like innings in a baseball game, it’s an operation that must be repeated several times.

The smell of tear gas wafts up to where I am. Now the policemen are in the kiosk, shooting into the parking lots of two of the buildings where most of the stones and insults are coming from. They get a tear gas canister in there on their first try.

I get it on video.

Now, a change in tactics: off to another building. The shouts of neighbors sound the alert, the attempted invasion fails.

Soon, the spectators on the corner become players in our street’s drama. The roar of the motorcycles begin to stun the environment but from another direction. “¡Vienen por el Dorsay, pendientes!” shouts the neighbor above me. The closer they come, the greater the panic. Some go from walking to walking fast, from jogging to running for their freedom.

A kid dressed in bermuda shorts and sleeveless flannel manages to take refuge at the Luis Razetti clinic before the caretaker closes the gate.

“Mira, sí lo andaban buscando”, says the neighbor below to his daughter. Of the herd of 15 units, three are parked near the gate. They say something to whoever is keeping the gate closed and leave. It was close.

The kid gives them a good fight, with encouragement from the neighbors. But it’s one against six, and the outcome is foretold.

The game is repeated several more times: increasingly daring and with more uniformed characters. Likewise, street protesters and neighbors are not far behind. Suddenly, the clamor almost bursts my eardrums. What’s up? What are people watching? Twitter: This is how PNB enters to Doral Caracas Residences.

“¡Activos! Vienen por el Dorsay!” shouts the neighbor from an upper floor. People on the street, oblivious to what happens a block away, do not flinch at the announcement. Maybe they didn’t hear. The PNB bikes seem to be reviewing, they advance slowly. Turn the camera on, zoom in, record. “¡Malditos!”, “¡Déjenlo!” (Damn you! Leave him alone!)  

Bottles, trash, thread, stones and debris fly from all directions. In the corner where the Razetti Clinic sits, they arrest a kid who’s just passing by, not at all involved in the melée.

The kid gives them a good fight, with encouragement from the neighbors. But it’s one against six, and the outcome is foretold.

Round 1: kicking and twisting, trying to break free. Round 2: the battle of the PNBs to try to get him on the bike. Round 3: he’s already on but he thrashes around too much. Round 4: everything is over, they snatch him away. Saving video.

To the computer.

From a room in my apartment, a voice cries out.

“They took the kid away! They took him away!,” my mom shouts in tears.

At seven o’clock, silence returns to La Candelaria.

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