More than 100,000 students have taken part in a nationwide protest rally in Chilean capital of Santiago against government educational reforms as the event turned violent by clashes between some protesters and police.
The violence during the Wednesday protest march began when groups of hooded protesters reportedly hurled Molotov cocktails at a police station and blocked rush - hour traffic along some major roadways, according to an AP report. Riot police then responded to the violence using water cannons and tear gas. This is while the Chilean Interior and Security Minister Andres Chadwick slammed the protest violence as “coordinated acts” by “criminals and extremists. ”
“They are not students, they are criminals and extremists, ” said Chadwick in a press conference. “They’ve acted in a coordinated and planned way to provoke these acts of violence. ”
While police authorities have not disclosed the number of arrests made during the daylong demonstration, they announced that at least three of their officers were injured in the violence. No figures have so far been released on the number of protesters injured in the melee. According to report, teachers, dockworkers and copper miners also joined the students in the national protest, which was timed ahead of Chile’s presidential primaries on Sunday. Demands of protesters ranged from reform of the education system that would put the state back in control of the mostly privatized public colleges and universities to a wider distribution of Chile’s copper wealth. Student leaders further demanded a change in the nation’s tax system so that wealthier individuals would pay more. The march was part of a 24-hour strike called by the National Convention of Students. Students have led regular demonstrations since the protest movement began in 2011. However, after two years of student protests that often paralyzed the country’s major cities and stoked expectations of change, Chilean students say they have noticed few benefits. This is while the dispute over education reform remains a major electoral issue ahead of the nation’s presidential vote next November.