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.
At least three student activists had to be taken to a hospital after they were operated over by the van driven by a police officer, protest leader Renato Reyes said.
Associated Press TV footage indicated the van repeatedly ramming the protesters as it drove wildly backward and forward after activists surrounded and started making the vehicle with wooden batons they seized from police.
In front of horrified mob, including videojournalists 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 lunging some to the side like bowling pins. A few get operated over but somehow managed to stand.
Some hollered in surprise, others hurled stones at the van and yelled invectives. A speaker called the police “puppies of imperialists” on a loudspeaker.
“There was utterly 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.”
Police lobbed tear gas and arrested at the least 23 protesters who transgressed through a line of riot police and lunged red paint at the officers and a U.S. government seal in the early stages 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 stones and red paint. After violating through the police hallway, they scribbled “U.S. troops out now” and other slogans at the embassy's tall fencing with red paint.
The protesters, consisting of students, workers and trade tribespeople, were demanding an end to the presence of visiting U.S. troops in the Philippines and to support a bellow by President Rodrigo Duterte for a foreign policy not dependent on the U.S ., the country's longtime treaty ally.
The activists came from the largest left-wing umbrella group called Bayan( Nation ), which has organized regular anti-U.S. protests in front of the embassy for decades, most of which are peaceful.
Duterte was on a nation visit to China, where he is seeking to repair relations strained under his predecessor over territorial conflicts around the South China Sea. He is also seeking to expand two-way trade and investments and financing for poorly needed infrastructure projects.
Amid an uneasy relationship with the U.S ., Duterte has tried to reach out to China and Russia, bringing uncertainty to his country's long confederation with America.
But the protesters also resisted the president's effort to lean toward China. “The Philippines will not be dictated on, whether by the U.S. or China, ” they said in a statement.
The Philippine National Police did not commentary immediately Wednesday.
The violence happened as the police and Duterte are under increased international scrutiny for their alleged role in the killings of thousands of medication suspects and pushers as part of the president's war on illegal drugs.
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