Chile: Talks broken, police move in on students

Last Updated: Friday, October 7, 2011 - 12:08

Santiago: Chilean police used water
cannons and tear gas to break up a student march for free public education, hours after protesters` talks with the
government collapsed.

A huge deployment of riot police surrounded students in
the Plaza Italia, Santiago`s traditional gathering place,
where student leader Camila Vallejo tried to lead the march
yesterday while holding a sign saying "United and Stronger,"
only to be pummeled by water cannons and forced to retreat by
tear gas.

Protesters hurled rocks at police and set blockades
ablaze in the streets as officers on horseback chased students
onto nearby campuses. Vallejo said officers shot tear gas into
their student government offices in "a direct attack against
our organisation."
Students occupied the Alameda, one of Santiago`s main
avenues, by dancing in large numbers, but were blasted with
water from police. Small groups managed to elude officers and
approach the presidential palace before being beaten back by
police.

The regional governor, Cecilia Perez, said 132 people
were arrested and 25 officers and five civilians were injured.
At least a half-dozen journalists were arrested. She called
this "lamentable" and said their arrests would be
investigated.

Yesterday`s march was the 37th weekly protest since the
movement against Chile`s largely privatized education system
in began in April, demanding more spending and higher taxes on
the wealthy so that quality public education can be free for
all.

With both sides accusing the other of intransigence,
Chile`s government has focused on criminalising the protests,
proposing tough new penalities including up to three years in
prison for occupying schools and other public places.

Vallejo called the police crackdown unprecedented, even
for a movement that for five months has seen initially
peaceful mass marches dissolve into isolated but violent
confrontations between hooded demonstrators and helmeted,
baton-wielding police.

PTI



First Published: Friday, October 7, 2011 - 12:08

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