Chile anniversary rallies turn violent as churches burned, police fire tear gas

1 / 2
2 / 2
Demonstrators run as police use water cannons to disperse them from the streets of Santiago, Chile, on Oct. 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
Short Url
Updated 19 October 2020

Chile anniversary rallies turn violent as churches burned, police fire tear gas

  • The demonstrations were held to mark last year's mass protests that left over 30 dead and thousands injured 

SANTIAGO, Chile: Tens of thousands of Chileans gathered in the central square of Santiago to mark the one-year anniversary of mass protests that left over 30 dead and thousands injured, with peaceful rallies on Sunday devolving by nightfall into riots and looting.
People gathered early in the day in demonstrations downtown and in cities throughout Chile that gained size and fervor through the evening. Many touted signs and rainbow colored homemade banners calling for a “yes” vote next Sunday in a referendum over whether to scrap the country’s dictatorship-era Constitution, a key demand of the 2019 protests.
The demonstrations, while largely peaceful early on, were marred by increasing incidents of violence, looting of supermarkets and clashes with police across the capital later in the day. Fire truck sirens, burning barricades on roadways and fireworks on downtown streets added to a sense of chaos in some neighborhoods.
Interior Minister Victor Perez spoke late in the evening, praising the early, peaceful rallies while blasting the late-night mayhem. He called on Chileans to settle their differences by voting in the upcoming Oct. 25 constitutional referendum.
“Those who carry out these acts of violence do not want Chileans to solve our problems through democratic means,” Perez told reporters, vowing to punish those who crossed the line Sunday.
Early in the day, an angry mob jeered and threatened a Communist Party mayor. Later, masked individuals firebombed a police headquarters and church. Vandals attacked another Santiago church in the early evening, setting its spire aflame and choking side streets with smoke.
More than 15 metro stations were temporarily closed amid the unrest. Police fired tear gas and water cannons in skirmishes with sometimes violent, hooded and masked people.
Last year’s protests, which began Oct. 18, raged until mid-December as Chileans gathered nationwide to call for reforms to the pension, health care and education systems. Rioting and looting resulted in billions of dollars in damage and losses to the country’s businesses and infrastructure. The unrest saw the military take to the streets for the first time since the rule of dictator Augusto Pinochet.
Police estimated that Sunday’s rally in Santiago attracted around 25,000 people by 6 p.m., far smaller than the largest protests of 2019.
In the past few days, small-scale demonstrations and isolated incidents of violence have nonetheless resurfaced in Chile, as the capital’s 6 million citizens emerge from months of confinement following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most demonstrators on Sunday wore masks, but many could be seen in tight groups, raising concerns about a potential health risk.


France targets mosques in extremism crackdown

Updated 2 min 24 sec ago

France targets mosques in extremism crackdown

  • Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said that if any of the 76 prayer halls inspected were found to promote extremism they would be closed down
  • Inspections are part of France’s response to two attacks — the beheading of teacher Samuel Paty and the killing of three people in a Nice church

PARIS: French authorities will inspect dozens of mosques and prayer halls suspected of radical teachings starting Thursday as part of a crackdown on extremists following a spate of attacks, Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said.

Darmanin told RTL radio that if any of the 76 prayer halls inspected was found to promote extremism they would be closed down.

The inspections are part of the government’s response to two brutal recent attacks that shocked France — the October 16 beheading of a teacher who showed his pupils cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad and the stabbing to death of three people in a church in Nice on October 29.

Darmanin did not reveal which places of worship would be inspected. In a note he sent to regional security chiefs, seen by AFP, he cites 16 addresses in the Paris region and 60 others around the country.

On Twitter Wednesday he said the mosques were suspected of “separatism” — a term President Emmanuel Macron has used to describe ultraconservative Muslims closing themselves off from French society by, for example, enrolling their children in underground schools or forcing young girls to wear the Muslim headscarf.

The rightwing minister told RTL the fact that only a fraction of the around 2,600 Muslim places of worship in France were suspected of peddling radical theories showed “we are far from a situation of widespread radicalization.”

“Nearly all Muslims in France respect the laws of the Republic and are hurt by that (radicalization),” he said.
The killing of teacher Samuel Paty, who had shown his pupils cartoons of Mohammad in a class on free speech, at a school outside Paris sent shockwaves through France, where it was seen as an attack on the republic itself.

In the aftermath of his murder the authorities raided dozens of associations, sports groups and charities suspected of promoting extremism.
They also ordered the temporary closure of a large mosque in the Paris suburb of Pantin that had shared a vitriolic video lambasting Paty.

The government has also announced plans to step up the deportations of illegal migrants on radicalization watchlists.
Darmanin said that 66 of 231 foreigners on a watchlist had been expelled, around 50 others had been put in migrant detention centers and a further 30 had been placed under house arrest.

The minister announced the latest clampdown after receiving fierce criticism for pushing a bill that would make it harder to document police brutality.

Images of officers beating up black music producer Michel Zecler in his studio brought tens of thousands of people onto the streets last weekend against Darmanin’s push to restrict the filming of the police in the new bill.
MPs from Macron’s ruling Republic on the Move party have since announced plans to rewrite the legislation.