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Chileans clang pots, rally in Santiago to mark anniversary of 2019 protests

Many touted signs and brightly 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 protests, while largely peaceful early on, were marred by sporadic incidents of violence, looting and clashes with police across the city later in the day.

Reuters | Updated: 19-10-2020 04:51 IST | Created: 19-10-2020 04:51 IST
Chileans clang pots, rally in Santiago to mark anniversary of 2019 protests

Tens of thousands of Chileans gathered in the central square of the capital, Santiago, on Sunday, clanging pots, cheering and chanting to mark the one-year anniversary of mass protests over inequality that left more than 30 dead and thousands injured. Protesters gathered early in the day in rallies downtown and in cities throughout Chile that continued to gain size and fervor through early evening. Many touted signs and brightly 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 protests, while largely peaceful early on, were marred by sporadic incidents of violence, looting and clashes with police across the city later in the day. One Communist Party mayor of a Santiago neighborhood was jeered and threatened during an early demonstration. Later, masked vandals firebombed a police headquarters and church. More than 15 metro stations were temporarily closed amid the unrest.

Last year's demonstrations, which began Oct. 18, raged until mid-December as Chileans gathered nationwide to call for reforms to the pension, healthcare 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 protests and isolated incidents of violence have nonetheless resurfaced in Chile, as the capital's 6 million citizens emerge from months of confinement following the coronavirus pandemic. Most protesters on Sunday wore masks, but many could be seen in tight groups, raising concerns about a potential health risk.

Center-right President Sebastian Pinera, whose popularity has plunged following the 2019 protests, met with members of his cabinet early in the day but it was not clear whether or not he would address the nation.


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