Churches in Chile burned on anniversary of protests

A protester gestures while a church burns in Santiago during a demonstration on Sunday against Chile’s Government (CNS/Ivan Alvarado, Reuters)

Demonstrators set fire to two Catholic churches in Chile, where gatherings to mark the one-year anniversary of mass protests against inequality descended into chaos. Source: CNS.

Church officials and media reports described the gatherings on Sunday throughout the country as peaceful, but unrest broke out late in the day, with some protesters entering and vandalising parishes in Santiago, the national capital.

Videos posted on social media showed the spire of Our Lady of the Assumption Church in Santiago burning, then crashing to the ground as a nearby crowd cheered.

St Francis Borgia Church also was vandalised, and religious items were stolen, a church official said. The parish is home to institutional ceremonies for the “Carabineros”, Chile’s national police, a force unpopular with protesters over accusations of it employing repressive tactics, including 345 eye injuries from the use of pellets shot from anti-riot weapons, according to a United Nations report.

“These events over the past few hours in Santiago and other cities in Chile show that there are no limits to those that exacerbate violence,” the Chilean bishops’ conference said in an statement.

“These violent groups contrast with many others who have demonstrated peacefully. The vast majority of Chile yearns for justice and effective measures that help to overcome inequality. They do not want more corruption or abuse; they expect dignified, respectful and fair treatment.”

Chileans go to the polls on Saturday in a referendum on whether to rewrite the nation’s constitution, which was drafted during the 1973-1990 regime of General Augusto Pinochet.

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Demonstrators burn two churches in Chile on anniversary of protests (CNS

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