Police shot tear gas and water cannons when the demonstration by 3,000 Mapuches in Chile’s capital turned violent. Sixteen people were arrested.
The rally was timed to protest a national holiday for “Dia de La Raza,” which celebrates the first encounter by Native Americans and Europeans during Christopher Columbus’ arrival to America.
Protesters also demanded the release of four Mapuches who have been on a hunger strike for more than 50 days after they were accused of the attempted murder of Chilean police officers and carrying weapons illegally during a raid.
Military police Gen. Rodolfo Pacheco blamed anarchist groups for infiltrating Monday’s demonstration and vandalizing several bank branches. Marches in Chile demanding improvements in education and land reforms are common and generally peaceful, but often end with clashes between police and a minority of hooded anarchist activists armed with rocks and molotov cocktails.
“Unfortunately, these social rejects of the CRA anarchist group who also caused damaged at last year’s Dia de La Raza… infiltrated into the march wearing hoods and looted banks like Santander, BBVA and Itau, which was the worst damaged,” Pacheco said.
Police use water cannon on protesters, Oct 15, 2012.
Officials say the demonstration in Santiago is now under control and members of the tribe are showcasing cultural events in a downtown park. Many danced in traditional clothes and carried banners bashing the arrival of Columbus.
“Today is a day of protest, not of celebration because there’s nothing to celebrate,” Mapuche Leader Natividad Llanquileo told state TV. “We’re going to insist on the freedom of the Mapuche people.”
The Mapuches, which means “people of the land” in their native language, fiercely resisted the Spanish conquest for 300 years and their desire for autonomy remains strong. It wasn’t until the late 19th century that they were defeated militarily and forced into Araucania, south of the Bio Bio river, about 550 kilometres south of the capital. Most now live in poverty.
ENTIRE ARTICLE HERE: Chilean police clash with protesters during Mapuche march | Warrior Publications.