At least three students taken to hospital after vehicle drives into activists who had begun attacking it with batons at anti-US rally
The Associated Press
Wednesday 19 October 2016
A police van has rammed into protesters as an anti-US rally outside the American embassy in the Philippines capital, Manila, turned violent.
At least three student activists were taken to hospital after they were run over by the van driven by a police officer, the protest leader Renato Reyes said.
Television footage showed the van repeatedly ramming the protesters as it drove wildly back and forth after protesters had surrounded and started hitting the van with wooden batons they had seized from the police.
In front of horrified crowds, the van suddenly drove backwards then forwards twice over a space of about 20 metres, scattering protesters.
Some demonstrators screamed in surprise, while others hurled stones at the van. One protester called the police “puppies of imperialists” using a loudspeaker.
“There was absolutely no justification for it,” Reyes said of the police tactics. “Even as the president vowed an independent foreign policy, Philippine police forces still act as running dogs of the US.”
Police lobbed teargas and arrested at least 23 protesters who broke through a line of riot police and hurled red paint at the officers and a US government seal at the start of the rally at the seaside embassy compound.
A firetruck doused the protesters with water to push them back, but they took hold of the water hose and confronted officers with rocks and red paint. After breaking through the police corridor, they wrote “US troops out now” and other slogans in red paint on the embassy’s tall fence.
The protesters, made up of students, workers and tribespeople, were demanding an end to the presence of US troops in the country and supporting a call by the president, Rodrigo Duterte, for a foreign policy not dependent on the US, the country’s treaty ally.
The activists came from the country’s largest leftwing umbrella group, Bayan (Nation), which has organised regular anti-US protests in front of the embassy for decades, most of which are peaceful.
Duterte is on a state visit to China, where he is seeking to repair relations strained under his predecessor over territorial conflicts in the South China Sea. He is also seeking to expand two-way trade and investments and seek financing for infrastructure projects.
Amid an uneasy relationship with the US, Duterte has tried to forge links with China and Russia, bringing uncertainty to his country’s long alliance with America.
The hardline president came to power in May and has since made a succession of anti-American outbursts, calling Barack Obama the “son of a whore” and telling the US president to “go to hell”.
The protesters also opposed the president’s effort to make overtures toward China. “The Philippines will not be dictated on, whether by the US or China,” they said in a statement.
The Philippine national police did not comment immediately.
The violent incidents took place as the police and Duterte are under increased international scrutiny for their alleged role in the killings of thousands of drug suspects and pushers as part of the president’s war on drugs.
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