School children across Santiago have occupied schools and blocked roads as part of a protest movement for education reform. The Chilean police refer to the children as 'hooded vandals' , and have violently removed them from the occupied schools.
Police in Chile have arrested 139 school children who had been occupying secondary schools and blocking roads in the capital, Santiago. Police in full riot gear violently evicted the school children, but some still remain occupied.
According to a police inspector, they were met with:
“Strong opposition, the throwing of heavy objects and chemical powder taken from fire extinguishers.”
The occupations were part of an on-going protest movement in Chile that is demanding wide ranging educational reform. School children and students have been organising mass protests for the last year.
The protest in Santiago last week, and his latest response by the police, marks a hardening of the state’s response towards the students.
Camila Vallejo, a student leader, has spoken out against the action:
“It is a direct assault on public education and on the chance to advance towards ending inequality in Chile”.
A police spokesperson has stated that:
“The use of force was necessary for the rule of law”
Government spokesperson Andres Chadwick has said that:
“We reject the violence of a small group of students who occupy those schools, often wearing balaclavas. Their sole purpose is to disrupt classes and normal life.”
The government claim that education in Chile is the best in the Latin world. The protesters say the system is unfair, and that it is only upper class students who have access to good education.
The president has flatly refused to budge on reforming the education system, other than the introduction of a few thousand scholarships that will enable poor students to go to good schools.