Chile: Protesters Demanding Education Rights Met With Tear Gas, Water Cannons

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Common Dreams

Chile: Protesters Demanding Education Rights Met With Tear Gas, Water Cannons

Protesters reject 2-tiered education system, demand free, quality education for all

by
Common Dreams staff

Riot police detaining a student during the education protest yesterday in Santiago, Chile (photo: REUTERS/Eliseo Fernandez)

Thousands of students in Chile hit the streets yesterday in continued calls for the government to provide free, quality education. Police responded with heavy force, using tear gas and water cannons to attempt to break up the demonstration.

Amnesty International has issued a call to Chilean President Sebastián Piñera to address recent police violence toward students and ongoing human rights abuses.

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Video from RT shows protesters fleeing water cannons and police throwing tear gas towards protesters:

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BBC: Chile students clash with police as protests resume

Police in Chile have used tear gas and water cannon to break up a protest by thousands of students in Santiago.

It was the first big demonstration this year by Chile's student movement, which held months of mass protests in 2011.

They are demanding free, high-quality public education for all, as well as the reinstatement of students excluded from school for protesting. [...]

The student demonstration began as a peaceful march in the centre of the capital.

Clashes broke out as hundreds of protesters tried to break through police lines outside the Education Ministry.

Masked youths set up burning barricades and threw stones and petrol bombs at riot police.

At least 50 people were arrested, the authorities said.

The dispute over educational reform remains unresolved despite months of mass protests backed by teachers and trade unions as well as students.

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Agence France-Presse: 50 arrested as Chile education protest turn violent

At least 50 people were arrested in Santiago when police clashed with students angry at the low quality and high cost of public education.

The demo, involving some 5,000 protesters, also saw three officers hurt in the hours-long clashes, police said.

Police used water cannons and tear gas against the demonstrators and deployed officers on horseback to try to control the crowd. The students responded by hurling stones, sticks and bottles filled with paint. [...]

Chilean students staged more than 40 street marches last year. Some of them drew more than 100,000 people, making them the country's largest rallies since the end of Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship in 1990. Several marches resulted in clashes with police. [...]

Under Pinochet, state funding for public education was slashed, privatization encouraged and responsibility for public schools passed to municipalities.

The result has been a system dividing those who can afford private schools and those who are relegated to lower quality public schools, or benefit from public schools in wealthy neighborhoods.

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The Santiago Times: Human rights abuses remain in Chile, says Amnesty International

[...]

“We sent a letter to Piñera that contains our concerns of human rights abuses in Chile,” AI Executive Director Ana Piquer said. “It is exhaustive to see how many issues need to change in Chile.”

Piquer said while there had been many advances in Chile such as the creation of the National institute of Human Rights in 2010, there were still plenty of shortfalls, including police violence.

“The government has to take responsibility for recent police violence toward students and Aysén protesters,” Piquer said. “Here it is a normal procedure for police to use gases and water indiscriminately on demonstrators, but if this is needed it should be the last resort.” [...]

“The greatest concern is the acts of violence that are committed by police forces. These need to be investigated in an impartial and responsible way,” Piquer said. “The authorities have been inactive and this concerns us because it means in the future the violence will increase if it remains unchecked.” [...]

“If someone were to use Twitter to announce a protest and that protest ended in violence, then that person who Tweeted the invitation can be arrested and charged,” Piquer said.

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