Philip­pine po­lice van rams protesters in front of Em­bassy

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Bul­lit Mar­quez and Bo­gie Calupi­tan

MANILA, PHILIP­PINES >> A Philip­pine po­lice van rammed into protesters, leav­ing sev­eral blood­ied, as an anti-U.S. rally turned vi­o­lent Wed­nes­day at the Amer­i­can Em­bassy in Manila.

The van’s driver, po­lice of­fi­cer Franklin Kho, told re­porters he did not de­lib­er­ately hit the protesters but was try­ing to drive away from them be­cause they were hit­ting the ve­hi­cle with wooden clubs and he feared they would com­man­deer it and use it to at­tack other po­lice­men. “They were al­ready try­ing to seize the ve­hi­cle,” Kho told re­porters.

As­so­ci­ated Press TV footage showed the van re­peat­edly ram­ming the protesters as it drove wildly back and forth af­ter ac­tivists sur­rounded and started hit­ting it with the wooden ba­tons they seized from po­lice.

In front of hor­ri­fied crowds, 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.

At least three stu­dent ac­tivists were taken to a hospi­tal af­ter they were run over by the van, protest leader Renato Reyes said.

“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 U.S.”

More than two dozen po­lice­men were in­jured, po­lice of­fi­cials said, adding that po­lice ob­served “max­i­mum tol­er­ance” but rowdy protesters kept as­sault­ing the law en­forcers.

Po­lice lobbed tear gas and ar­rested at least 29 protesters who broke through a line of riot po­lice and hurled red paint at the of­fi­cers and a U.S. 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 “U.S. troops out now” and other slo­gans at the em­bassy’s tall fence with red paint.

The na­tional po­lice said in a state­ment that the vi­o­lent dis­per­sal was “un­for­tu­nate” and an in­ves­ti­ga­tion would try to de­ter­mine if the riot po­lice­men fol­lowed crowd-con­trol pro­ce­dures. In­ves­ti­ga­tors will also eval­u­ate crim­i­nal and civil li­a­bil­i­ties of the protesters and their leader for an al­leged il­le­gal mass assem­bly.

A left-wing le­gal group, the Na­tional Union of Peo­ple’s Lawyers, con­demned the po­lice vi­o­lence and said it would help the in­jured and de­tained protesters file crim­i­nal com­plaints against the po­lice for vi­o­lat­ing their con­sti­tu­tional rights to free assem­bly.

BUL­LIT MAR­QUEZ — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A pro­tester is helped by oth­ers af­ter a Philip­pine Na­tional Po­lice van rammed into protesters out­side the U.S. Em­bassy in Manila, Philip­pines, Wed­nes­day. A Philip­pine po­lice van rammed into protesters, leav­ing sev­eral blood­ied, as an anti-U.S. rally turned vi­o­lent Wed­nes­day at the Amer­i­can em­bassy in Manila.

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