Rallies in Chilean capital turn violent as mobs torch churches, police fire tear gas
SANTIAGO (CHILE) – In the Chilean capital of Santiago, tens of thousands of people gathered in the central square on Sunday to mark the first anniversary of mass protests that left 30 dead and thousands injured. Although it was peaceful initially, by nightfall it became violent sparking riots and looting.
In cities across the country, people gathered early in the day for demonstrations and many touted signs and home-made rainbow-hued banners calling for a “yes” vote next Sunday in a referendum to decide whether or not to scrap the dictator-era constitution, which was a key demand of the protests last year.
There were increasing incidents of violence, looting of supermarkets and fights with police across Santiago. Adding to the mele were the sirens of fire trucks, fireworks on downtown streets and burning of police barricades.
During a late-night address, Interior Minister Victor Perez hailed the peaceful demonstrations earlier in the day and denounced the violence and mayhem. He urged people to settle their differences by taking part in the referendum on Oct. 25.
“Those who carry out these acts of violence do not want Chileans to solve our problems through democratic means,” Perez said, adding that action would be taken against those who unleashed violence.
Rioters wearing masks firebombed a police headquarters and church. Another church was also attacked in the capital and torched.
The unrest forced the closure of more than 15 metro stations and police deployed water cannons and fired tear gas to disperse the violent mob.
According to police, as many as 25,000 people took part in the protests in the capital.