Former Philippine President calls to march despite rally ban

Former President Corazon Aquino led a march Friday at Manila's financial district, calling for the resignation of the country's leader Gloria Macapagal Arroyo despite a ban on rallies.

Earlier, riot police violently dispersed thousands of anti-government protesters demanding Arroyo's ouster soon after she declared a state of emergency Friday amid what the government said was a failed coup plot.

At least 25 protesters were taken into custody, including a prominent political commentator and leaders of more than 5,000 leftist protesters marching along Manila's EDSA highway toward a monument to the "people power" revolt that ousted dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.

"Let us not allow anyone to grab our democracy from us again," Aquino told the rally in the Makati district. "Let us all help to end the dictatorship, let us all help to bring back democracy."

Aquino, a close Arroyo ally who has turned against her, reiterated her call for Arroyo's resignation to loud cheers from the crowd, estimated by police at 5,000.

Dressed in her trademark yellow protest dress, she led the march to the statue of her late husband, opposition Sen. Benigno Aquino, whose 1983 assassination sparked massive protests that led to the 1986 "people power" revolt, which ended Marcos' rule.

The rally was joined by left-wing activists, some raising clenched fists and carrying multicolored steamers. They clogged Makati's main avenue Ayala, where confetti was thrown from buildings.

Aquino earlier condemned Arroyo's declaration of a state of emergency, saying: "This is really shocking. ... It's really a pity if we lose our democracy again."

"We cannot just keep quiet because that is what happened during martial law. Our dictator then believed that he can do anything to keep himself in power," she said, referring to Marcos.

During the violent protest at EDSA, demonstrators tried to remove iron grills barricading the highway to join their leaders, who were negotiating with police officers. Police charged the protesters with fiberglass shields and clubs.

The protesters threw stones and sticks at police, and security forces responded by charging and spraying the crowd with a high-pressure fire hose. TV footage showed police taking turns using sticks to hit a bloodied protester who fell on a sidewalk, reports the AP.

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