Students demanding free higher education set fire to manned barricades Tuesday in a new round of protests that were greeted by police armed with tear gas and water cannons, police said. “There are various place in the capital where the barricades have been set on fire,” a police official said, asking not to be identified.
In some areas, students hurled Molotov cocktails and there were reports of a local transport bus being set ablaze. It was not immediately known if there were any casualties linked to the violence.
The students are re-launching a protest movement, which began in May with mass demonstrations, after negotiations with the government over their demands for sweeping education reform broke down.
With both sides far apart, Chileans were bracing for two days of confrontations in the streets of the capital. The city’s emblematic Alameda Avenue was gridlocked after protesters set fire to barricades near the University of Chile and the University of Santiago.
Television footage showed police using water cannons to try to clear the streets of protesters, on the first day of what has been planned as a two-day demonstration organized by the Students’ Confederation.
The demonstrators vowed more turmoil overnight and over the course of the day Wednesday, when huge protest marches were planned in downtown Santiago. The latest phase of the student upheaval in Chile coincides with youth-led Occupy Wall Street protests in New York and other major cities across the globe.
The students said they have decided to refuse further negotiations with the government because it had not moved toward their demands for free public education through university. At the moment, only about 40 percent of students qualify for free education based on parents’ income.