By Helene Fung
Up to a million people (more than 5% of Chile’s population) participated in a protest march for political, economic and social reforms in Santiago on Friday, waiving indigenous and national flags and placards, also singing popular resistance songs from the 1973-90 Augusto Pinochet dictatorship era.
While many headed home ahead of the 11:00pm military curfew, the rally turned violent by night; two protesters were seen hurling flaming molotov cocktails that exploded near a security force vehicle spraying protesters with gas.
Police firing tear gas and water cannons to disperse a crowd that gathered in a public square.
In the port city of Valparaiso, Chile’s congress was evacuated, after angry protesters overwhelmed security forces and forced their way into the building’s grounds.
Police fired tear gas at the demonstrators.
At least 18 people, including a child, have died in the turmoil that has swept the country since last Friday.
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera, a billionaire businessman, posted on Twitter after the protests: “We have all heard the message. We have all changed.”
Mr Pinera apologised this week for failing to anticipate the outbreak of social unrest and announced a raft of reformist measures and plans to end the unpopular state of emergency and curfew.