Protests in front of the US embassy in Manila have turned violent after a police van was seen ramming into protesters. The demonstrators were holding an anti-US rally in the Philippine capital.
Television footage aired on Wednesday showed a police van driving backwards and forwards into the protesters after they surrounded it and started hitting the van with wooden batons they had seized from the police.
Police also fired tear gas in an attempt to disperse more than a thousand protestors who had gathered in front of the US embassy in the Philippine capital, Manila.
The violence happened as the protesters gathered to demand an end to the presence of US troops in the country and to support a call by President Rodrigo Duterte for a foreign policy not dependent on the US, the country's longtime treaty ally.
Protestors threw red paint at the US embassy's gate on Wednesday and vandalized the compound's walls with slogans reading, "US troops out!" and "US, a plague to workers."
Arrests and injuries
Renato Reyes, secretary general of the left-wing group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Patriotic Alliance) said there was "absolutely no justification" for the police's violent dispersal.
"Even as the president vowed an independent foreign policy, Philippine police forces still act as running dogs of the US," Reyes said.
Police later arrested 23 protesters, who broke into a line of riot police and hurled red paint at the policemen and a US government seal at the seaside embassy. According to Reyes, 10 people were hospitalized.
"We had to disperse them," Chief Inspector Arsenio Riparip told the AFP news agency. "They started it. They were trying to enter the embassy."
Manila police chief Oscar Albayalde said in a statement that the protesters "weren't really run over," despite photos and video from the scene showing a man wedged beneath the tire of the van.
"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," according to Albayalde.
'The special forces, they have to go'
US special-forces have been advising local troops in the southern Philippines who are battling Islamist extremists. Duterte wants the troops out, however, claiming that the West is at the root of the persistent insurgency.
In opposing the US military presence in the southern region of Mindanao last month, Duterte cited the killing of Muslims during a US pacification campaign a century ago, which he said was the cause of a Muslim insurgency in the largely Catholic nation's south.
"The special forces, they have to go. They have to go in Mindanao, there are many whites there, they have to go," he said, adding that he was reorienting the country's foreign policy.
Re-kindling ties with China
Tensions between the long-time allies have been strained since Duterte came to power in June when he immediately announced a vigilante campaign to carry out extrajudicial killings against drug dealers and drug users.
The Philippines was a US colony from 1898 to 1946, except for a period of Japanese occupation during World War II.
During Wednesday's violence, Duterte was on a state visit to China, where he is seeking to repair relations strained under his predecessor over territorial conflicts in the South China Sea.
The president is also seeking to expand two-way trade and investments and seek financing for badly needed infrastructure projects.
kb/jm (AP, Reuters)