Police Van Plows Through Crowd of Protesters During Anti-U.S. Demonstration in Philippines

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Photo: Rob Reyes/AFP/Getty Images

Police in Manila cracked down hard on protesters outside the U.S. embassy on Wednesday, hitting them with tear gas, arresting dozens and, in one particularly gruesome scene caught on camera, driving a van back and forth through a crowd of them.

The horrifying scene took place as student protesters began beating on the van with wooden batons taken from police. At least three of the students were taken to the hospital after sustaining injuries in the van attack, and another nine were injured.

Despite the footage, the local police chief said the protesters “weren’t run over.” In a text message to local news site Inquirer.net, Oscar Albayalde said, “The rallyists were trying to flip over the patrol car. In the process, the driver extricated the patrol car and inadvertently hit some unruly protesters who sustained minor injuries.”

“There was absolutely no justification for it,” protest leader Renato Reyes said of the police behavior. “Even as the president vowed an independent foreign policy, Philippine police forces still act as running dogs of the U.S.”

About 1,0000 protesters gathered outside the embassy to call on the United States to remove troops from the southern island of Mindanao, where they’re helping fight radical jihadist groups. The protesters also expressed support for president Rodrigo Duterte and his efforts to institute an “independent foreign policy” that relies less on the U.S. Duterte, who hasn’t been shy about lobbing insults at President Obama, is currently on a trip to China, where he’s trying to repair a fractured relationship with Beijing.

From his hotel, Duterte said he will order an investigation into the incident.