Santiago – At least 250 young people were arrested in Chile during a massive new student demonstration calling for free, quality education for all that came after the breakdown of student negotiations with the government.
Some 30 cops and 15 civilians were injured in the protest, including several members of the national and foreign press corps.
A second report issued during the day by Santiago provincial Gov. Cecilia Perez said that 132 people were arrested at the same time that 25 riot police and five civilians were injured in the Chilean capital.
Meanwhile, Radio Bio Bio said that in the cities of Concepcion, Talca, Curico, Valdivia and Valparaíso, "particularly serious" disturbances occurred, and the Carabineros, Chile's militarized national police force, reported 124 students arrested there.
One of the most violent clashes between hooded protesters and police took place in Peru de Concepcion Plaza, 515 kilometers (320 miles) south of Santiago, where disturbances continued until close to midnight, the radio station said.
The protest demonstrations and subsequent disturbances broke out Thursday just a few hours after the collapse of student talks with the government that had been aimed at settling the conflict over education, with the government accused of being "intransigent."
"The government is the guilty one for refusing everything, we request permission to march and they do not give it, we ask for free education and neither (do they give that)," the most prominent student leader, Camila Vallejo, said via Twitter.
Free, quality public education has been the core demand of youth demonstrations held since May in Chile, where the educational system is highly stratified with the state partially subsidizing private education.
On Thursday night the Journalists Association of Chile slammed the government over police conduct "that appears aimed at blocking the right to information and free speech."
"The deliberate and abusive use of police violence against accredited reporters that took place (Thursday) represents a serious threat not only to the exercise of their profession but also against the country's institutional democratic system," the communique said.
In the text, the association blames the Carabinero action on the Interior Ministry, which in its opinion has the political duty to guide and control police-force action under all circumstances.
"Their action recalls another dismal moment in the nation's history," the text said with reference to the repression enforced by police during Gen. Augusto Pinochet's 1973-1990 military dictatorship.
Meanwhile, student leaders described the police action during the day as "among the most violent and repressive" ever seen in Chile.
"We again regret the way the government dealt with the movement. The Interior Ministry gave (the Carabineros) absolute freedom of repression to stop us from meeting in public areas, and these things are unacceptable because they violate a constitutional right," Camila Vallejo said.
Thursday ended with a massive banging of pots and pans in the Plaza Italia and other spots around Santiago, until the top student leaders and teachers arrived. Residents of nearby apartment buildings chimed in with their own pots and pans in support of the student movement.
Chile's public schools and universities were neglected by the 1973-1990 dictatorship of the late Gen. Augusto Pinochet, who embraced doctrinaire free market policies.
For-profit schools mushroomed under the military regime and the trend continued after democracy was restored, even during the 1990-2010 tenure of the center-left Concertacion coalition.
Students accuse the current president, right-wing billionaire Sebastian Piñera, of seeking to push through "a privatizing agenda.