Lucy Macnamara, Communications Manager, Art for Amnesty
I’m back with Amnesty International on the U2 360 tour, kicking off the first concert of the Latin America leg here at the Estadio Nacioal in Santiago, Chile. It’s an infamous stadium with a dark past. I have to admit a shiver went down my spine as I first walked in, thinking of the hundreds of people interrogated, tortured and murdered in here following the coup in September 1973. Between September and November that year alone, over 12,000 people were imprisoned here – men held in the field and gallery and women held in the swimming pool changing rooms. Not the best picture to have in your head as we did our ‘walk through’ at the venue and an eerie contrast to the sunshine, blue skies and birdsong outside.
Of course, much time has passed since then. It was here that U2 were honoured with Amnesty’s prestigious Ambassador of Conscience Award when they last played this venue in 2006 – a ceremony attended by many relatives of the ‘disappeared’. It was touching that U2 invited them to attend the concert again tonight.
Today, our volunteers from Amnesty Chile did an amazing job and got 3,600 people to sign up to the Demand Dignity campaign. They were asking people to support the legal enforcement of economic, social and cultural rights to demand that all people, especially those living in poverty, can access justice and hold governments accountable when human rights violations take place. It’s always interesting to see how different cultures and countries react to Amnesty volunteers, but Chilean people should be proud – just as soon as they heard the word ‘Amnesty’ they signed. During the show, Bono introduced the song ‘Walk On’, explaining that it was dedicated to Aung San Suu Kyi, who sent a message of thanks to ‘U2 fans and to Amnesty International who campaigned for her release’. Our volunteers proudly walked on stage during the song, holding their Amnesty torches aloft. As Bono gave Amnesty yet another name check from the stage, the Amnesty candle shone brightly on the 360 degree video screen to an absolute standing ovation from the 80,000 strong crowd. They were literally all yelling and clapping with delight. And it was so good to see our wonderful symbol of what’s good and what’s right shining through the darkness of history, to a bright future ahead.