Police van rams protesters in front of US embassy in Manila

At least three student activists had to be taken to a hospital after they were ran over by the van driven by a police officer, protest leader Renato Reyes said.

A man hits a Philippine National Police van with a stick after it rammed anti-US protesters outside the American embassy in Manila. Bullit Marquez / AP Photo

MANILA // An anti-US rally at the American embassy in Manila turned violent on Wednesday as a Philippine police van rammed protesters.

Three students had to be taken to hospital after they were run over by the van, protest leader Renato Reyes said.

Television footage showed the van repeatedly running back and forth into and over protesters.

Demonstrators had surrounded the vehicle and started hitting it with wooden batons seized from police.

The van charged backward then forward twice in a space of 20 metres, running through the protesters and hurtling some to the side. A few were run over but got up again.

Some screamed in shock, others hurled stones at the van and yelled expletives.

“There was absolutely no justification for it,” Mr Reyes said after police dispersed about 1,000 protesters. “Even as the president vowed an independent foreign policy, Philippine police forces still act as running dogs of the US.”

The driver of the van

Police lobbed tear gas and arrested at least 23 protesters who had broken through a line of riot police and hurled red paint at the officers.

A fire engine doused the protesters with water to push them back, but they took hold of the water hose and confronted the outnumbered police with rocks and red paint. After breaking through the police cordon, they scribbled “US troops out now” and other slogans at the embassy’s tall fence with red paint.

The protesters were demanding an end to the presence of visiting US troops in the Philippines and to support a call by president Rodrigo Duterte for a foreign policy not dependent on the US.

The activists came from the country’s largest left-wing umbrella group Bayan, which has organised regular anti-US protests in front of the embassy for decades, most of which were peaceful.

Mr Duterte was in China, where he is seeking to repair relations strained under his predecessor over territorial conflicts in the South China Sea. He is also seeking to expand two-way trade and investments and financing for infrastructure projects.

Amid an uneasy relationship with the US, Mr Duterte has tried to reach out to China and Russia.

But the protesters also opposed the president’s effort to lean toward China. “The Philippines will not be dictated on, whether by the US or China,” they said.

The violence took place as the police and Mr Duterte are under increased international scrutiny for their alleged role in the extrajudicial killings of thousands of drug suspects as part of the president’s war on drugs.

* Associated Press