SANTIAGO, Chile - August 9, 2011 - Chilean riot police fired tear gas and used water cannons Tuesday to disperse violent protesters on the fringe of an otherwise peaceful student demonstration in the capital city of Santiago.
Tens of thousands of teachers, students, parents and sympathetic labor activists marched in downtown Santiago for the fifth time in two months to demand reforms from the conservative government of President Sebastian Pinera.
The peaceful protest came apart when a group of hooded youths hurled sticks and rocks at riot police near the presidential palace of La Moneda. Some of the youths smashed streetlights and broke windows, and a car was set ablaze.
Police said some 60,000 people marched. Organizers put the number closer to 150,000. Either way, the recent wave of student protests is the largest since democracy was restored in Chile in 1990 after 17 years of military dictatorship.
Students want the state to take over the public school system, where 90% of the country's 3.5 million students are educated.
The nationwide school system was broken up during the 1973-1990 military regime and handed over to local authorities. Protesters say the current system results in deep inequalities and is underfunded.