Philippine police break up protest against Arroyo

Philippine police fired jets of water and used anti-riot shields to break up a march Thursday by about 300 left-wing student activists demanding the ouster of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Reporters and photographers saw officers yank away at least eight water-drenched protesters, but police said no charges were immediately filed against them.

Dozens of protesters, testing the limits of a new tough policy barring rallies without permits, have tried in recent days to march toward the presidential palace and have been injured while being dispersed by police.

The street protests followed the defeat in late August of an opposition bid to impeach Arroyo on vote-rigging allegations. Arroyo has denied involvement in poll fraud and accused her opponents of trying to grab power.

She has said the government's "maximum tolerance policy" has been abused, while opposition groups accuse her of using the same strong-arm tactics of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Members of the left-wing League of Filipino Students carried placards charging "state fascism" and "state terrorism" were being used to suppress dissent.

"We want to show today that the people will not surrender in this fight," league chairman Vencer Crisostomo said in a statement. "As the government and police intensify violence, more and more citizens will rise to defend their rights."

The protesters were headed to Mendiola Bridge, which has become a protest shrine since the 1970s, several hundred meters (yards) from the presidential palace gates, reports the AP. I.L.

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