Police Van Rams Anti-US Protesters In Philippines (Video)


Filipino police and protesters clashed in front of the American embassy in Manila on the morning of Oct. 19, resulting in a "violent dispersal" of the protesters. 

A graphic video of the unrest (below) shows a police van surrounded by protesters reversing into the crowd at speed, and then plowing forward through a group assembled at the front of the van. One woman gets caught under the van and is dragged along. After the van reverses again, she gets up and appears to leave the scene.

Activist leader Renato Reyes of the left-wing group Bayan, told the BBC that at least three people were hospitalized after the incident.

Hundreds of people had assembled at the U.S. embassy to demand an end to America's military presence in the country. They carried banners that read "Resist foreign intervention," "U.S. Troops Out Now," and "Yes To An Independent Foreign Policy, No To US Bases & Troops."

The violence erupted after demonstrators broke through a line of riot police, prompting the authorities to use tear gas to disperse the crowd. The crowd took control of a fire hose, which they used against the police, in addition to throwing stones at them. 

The Philippine National Police (PNP) said in a statement, "The PNP is now piecing together all facts and circumstances between members of the Manila Police district and a group of militant activists," reports the Philippine Star. The PNP instructed the Capital Region Police Office to investigate the incident, and identify individuals on both sides who might be liable for criminal or civil damages. 

Twenty-nine members of indigenous peoples groups were arrested, including two Lumad minors, aged 14 and 15.

"The Manila Police should respect the rights of the members of national minorities they arrested during the rally at the US embassy," Judy Taguiwalo, the social welfare secretary, tweeted, calling for the release of the protesters.

The protests come at a time of rising tensions between the Philippines and the U.S. In September, the Guardian reported that Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte called President Obama, the "son of a whore," prompting Obama to cancel a meeting with him just two months after he took office. 

Duterte was elected in part because his position against U.S. influence in the Philippines set him apart from his opposition. 

The U.S. has relied on the Philippines for a number of strategic goals. According to the Boston Globe, the U.S. looks to their alliance with the Filipino military for assistance in challenging China's claims in the South China Sea. Since taking office, Duterte has taken steps toward smoothing over a frosty relationship with China. 

Further, the Pentagon considers the Philippines an active front in the war on terror. There is a Muslim-led insurgency on the island of Mindanao, where hundreds of US Special Forces are deployed. Duterte's desire to expel American influence from his country leaves the Philippines' cooperation on counter-terrorism, and on China, uncertain. 

Warning: Video contains graphic content.

Sources: BBC, PhilStar, The Guardian (2), The Boston Globe / Photo and Video credit: Russia Today via YouTube

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