Philippine police van rams protesters in front of US Embassy

A red paint thrown by a protester misses its target as they clash with riot police after managing to slip past them during a rally to mark the 24th year anniversary of the termination of the U.S. military bases in the country Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015 at the U.S. Embassy in Manila, Philippines. Riot policemen have dispersed dozens of left-wing students, who stormed past a police cordon after dawn and splattered red paint on the seal of the U.S. Embassy in Manila to protest the American military presence in the country. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)
A red paint thrown by a protester misses its target as they clash with riot police after managing to slip past them during a rally to mark the 24th year anniversary of the termination of the U.S. military bases in the country Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015 at the U.S. Embassy in Manila, Philippines. Riot policemen have dispersed dozens of left-wing students, who stormed past a police cordon after dawn and splattered red paint on the seal of the U.S. Embassy in Manila to protest the American military presence in the country. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A Philippine police van rammed into protesters, leaving several bloodied, as an anti-U.S. rally turned violent Wednesday at the American embassy in Manila.

At least three student activists had to be taken to a hospital after they were run over by the van driven by a police officer, protest leader Renato Reyes said.

AP Television footage showed the van repeatedly ramming the protesters as it drove wildly back and forth after protesters had surrounded and started hitting the van with wooden batons they had seized from the police.

Police later arrested 23 protesters, who broke into a line of riot police and hurled red paint at the policemen and a U.S. government seal at the seaside embassy.

“There was absolutely no justification for it,” Reyes said of the violent police dispersal of about 1,000 protesters. “Even as the president vowed an independent foreign policy, Philippine police forces still act as running dogs of the U.S.”

The violence happened as the protesters gathered to demand an end to the presence of U.S. troops in the country and to support a call by President Rodrigo Duterte for a foreign policy not dependent on the U.S., the country’s longtime treaty ally.

Duterte was on a state visit to China, where he is seeking to repair relations strained under his predecessor over territorial conflicts in the South China Sea. Duterte is also seeking to expand two-way trade and investments and seek financing for badly needed infrastructure projects.

Amid an uneasy relationship with the U.S., Duterte has tried to reach out to China and Russia, bringing uncertainty to his country’s long alliance with America.

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