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Students seize Chile’s Senate building

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

Students seize Chile’s Senate building

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SANTIAGO, Chile – Dozens of students and other protesters interrupted a Senate committee meeting Thursday to demand a popular referendum on how to resolve Chile’s social problems, especially education.
Three youths climbed atop the committee room’s table and unfurled a sign reading “Plebiscite now” as Education Minister Felipe Bulnes and others participating in the hearing by a Senate education subcommittee hurriedly left. Activists shouted at Bulnes, who stumbled during scuffling on the way out. A young man broke a window and threw coins at the Cabinet minister.
The protesters then occupied the Senate headquarters in Santiago and transmitted the situation live over the Internet by webcam. They urged other students to converge on the building, which housed Chile’s congress before the 1973-90 military dictatorship, and then march to the presidential palace Thursday night.
Police sealed off the building with metal barriers to keep more people from entering and faced off with a crowd of about 600 Thursday night. Protesters held up signs demanding “Free Education” and “Referendum Now.”
The occupation of the Senate headquarters came just hours after riot police violently evicted protesters from galleries at the current Congress building in Chile’s port city of Valparaiso. (AP)
Here, authorities, from left, front, Chile’s Education Minister Felipe Bulnes, Santiago University Rector Juan Manuel Zolezzi, and Chile’s Senator Ena Anglein von Baer, fourth from left, looks on as protesters carrying a banner that reads in Spanish “Plebiscite now,” stand on a table during a protest at the Chilean Senator headquarters in Santiago.