SANTIAGO – Hundreds of students and police officers clashed Thursday for more than four hours in the Chilean capital’s downtown area after security forces prevented the young people from carrying out an unauthorized protest march.
Authorities have not indicated how many people were arrested or injured in the disturbances that extended throughout downtown Santiago, including Santa Lucia hill, where dozens of police pursued groups of young people who tried to hole themselves up in the area.
Police moved in to disperse the students as soon as they had begun gathering in Santiago’s Plaza Italia to start their march, which was to occur along the La Alameda thoroughfare.
The students tried to regroup on several occasions, leading to a series of clashes with members of Chile’s militarized national police, the Carabineros, who used tear gas and water cannon against the rock-throwing demonstrators.
The planned march was the latest of several actions by high-school students this week in rejection of the form and some of the content of an education overhaul bill promoted by President Michelle Bachelet’s administration.
The young people oppose the slow pace in implementing some of the measures, such as tuition-free university education for hundreds of thousands of low-income students, the transfer of the administration of high schools from the municipalities to the Education Ministry and the mechanisms for financing some of the measures.
“What happened was condemnable and was not instigated by the students,” Jose Corona, spokesman for the National Coordinator of Secondary Students, or Cones, said.
“We did what we could so this wouldn’t happen. A constitutional right was violated, which is the right of assembly. Jorge Burgos (Chile’s interior minister) and Claudio Orrego (intendant of the Santiago Metropolitan Region) are responsible,” he added.