Philippine po­lice van runs over pro­test­ers

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

MANILA: A Philippine po­lice van rammed into pro­test­ers, leav­ing sev­eral blood­ied, as an anti-US rally turned vi­o­lent yes­ter­day at the Amer­i­can Em­bassy in Manila. At least three stu­dent ac­tivists were taken to a hospi­tal af­ter they were run over by the van driven by a po­lice of­fi­cer, protest leader Re­nato Reyes said.

As­so­ci­ated Press TV footage showed the van re­peat­edly ram­ming the pro­test­ers as it drove wildly back and forth af­ter ac­tivists sur­rounded and started hit­ting the ve­hi­cle with wooden ba­tons they seized from po­lice. In front of hor­ri­fied crowds, in­clud­ing video jour­nal­ists and pho­tog­ra­phers, the van sud­denly charged back­ward then sprinted for­ward twice over a space of about 20 me­ters (60 feet), bar­rel­ing through the scat­tered pro­test­ers and hurtling some to the side like bowl­ing pins. A few were run over but some­how man­aged to stand.

Some screamed in sur­prise, oth­ers hurled stones at the van and yelled in­vec­tives. A speaker called the po­lice “pup­pies of im­pe­ri­al­ists” on a loud­speaker. “There was ab­so­lutely no jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for it,” Reyes said of the vi­o­lent po­lice dis­per­sal of about 1,000 pro­test­ers. “Even as the pres­i­dent vowed an in­de­pen­dent for­eign pol­icy, Philippine po­lice forces still act as run­ning dogs of the US.”

‘US troops out now’

Po­lice lobbed tear gas 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 rowdy pro­test­ers with wa­ter to push them back, but they took hold of the wa­ter hose and con­fronted the out­num­bered po­lice with rocks and red paint. Af­ter break­ing through the po­lice cor­ri­dor, they scrib­bled “US troops out now” and other slo­gans at the em­bassy’s tall fence with red paint.

The pro­test­ers, con­sist­ing of stu­dents, work­ers and tribes­peo­ple, were de­mand­ing an end to the pres­ence of vis­it­ing US troops in the Philip­pines and to sup­port a call by Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte for a for­eign pol­icy not de­pen­dent on the US, the coun­try’s long­time treaty ally. The ac­tivists came from the largest left-wing um­brella group called Bayan (Na­tion), which has or­ga­nized reg­u­lar anti-US protests in front of the em­bassy for decades, most of which are peace­ful.

Duterte was 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 fi­nanc­ing for badly needed in­fra­struc­ture projects. Amid an uneasy re­la­tion­ship with the US, Duterte has tried to reach out to China and Rus­sia, bring­ing un­cer­tainty to his coun­try’s long al­liance with Amer­ica.

But the pro­test­ers also op­posed the pres­i­dent’s ef­fort to lean 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 yes­ter­day. The vi­o­lence hap­pened 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 il­le­gal drugs. —AP

MANILA: Pro­test­ers lie on the ground af­ter be­ing hit by a po­lice van dur­ing a rally in front of the US em­bassy. —AFP

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