Mapuche protest: Chile police clash with vandals


Mapuche children from the Colpanao community present a dance to greet a group of students from Santiago.


Ruka Kimun

Chilean police on Monday clashed with hooded vandals who infiltrated a protest by Mapuche Indians demanding land rights and autonomy.

When the 3000-strong protest in Santiago turned violent, police shot tear gas and water cannons into the crowd, according to the Associated Press. Military police Gen. Rodolfo Pacheco said anarchist groups were to blame for the violence at the march, where they vandalized several bank branches.

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The rally was scheduled to protest "Dia de la Raza," a national holiday that celebrates the first encounter between Native Americans and Europeans when Christopher Columbus arrived on the continent. Protesters also demanded the release of four Mapuches who have been on a hunger strike for over 50 days, which started when they were accused of the attempted murder of Chilean police officers and illegally carrying weapons.

During the rally, Mapuche men wore traditional dress, which included ponchos with feathers and arrows, and women used colorful fabrics and silver jewelry, reported the Australian Associated Press. Traditional Mapuche folk music was also played while protesters danced.

The Mapuche people make up six percent of Chile's 16 million residents. They are demanding the country's government return land that is home to most of Chile's Mapuche, living in some 2000 communities, which was lost when the Spanish arrived in the region.

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