South Korean police storm protest against U.S. military base

Thousands of police armed with batons stormed an abandoned school in South Korea to evict activists who were protesting plans to expand a U.S. military base, sparking clashes that resulted in several injuries.

Police with shields and batons battled with a group of local villages and anti-U.S. protesters at the village of Pyeongtaek, about 65 kilometers south of Seoul, where they occupied the school building overnight to protest the expansion plans.

At least a dozen protesters were detained by police. Some of the protesters were seen bleeding from the head and at least one of them was taken away by an ambulance, but it was not immediately clear how many injuries occurred.

Police want to secure the school and surrounded areas so that surveying activities can begin for the expansion of the nearby Camp Humphreys as part of U.S. plans to move their military command there from its current headquarters in Yongsan Garrison in central Seoul.

About 1,000 villagers and anti-U.S. protesters had gathered at the school late Wednesday to demand that the base relocation plan be canceled. When police raided the school, many of the protesters ran away and only 200 of the hardcore activists remained in the two-story school building.

Several small villages on the outskirts of Pyeongtaek, a city of 360,000 people, must be razed for the base construction. The government has offered residents financial compensation to move out of their homes, but many residents have nonetheless strongly objected to the plans.

About 680 households originally refused to move out, but now only about 70 households continue to protest the plans, the Defense Ministry says.

South Korea and the United States agreed on the base relocation plans in 2004, reports the AP.

I.L.