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Anti- FTAA Protest Turns Violent in Ecuador

Hundred of students clash with riot police in anti-FTAA protests in Quito, Ecuador.
Walking down the usually bustling Avenida 12 de Octubre had a significantly different feel on Wednesday morning. It felt like a town in the old west waiting for a showdown to occur. It being Ecuador, of course it was only a matter of time. Hundreds of camouflaged riot police cordoned off major streets in preparation for clashes with anti-FTAA protesters. The area closed off to traffic included the Ecuadorian version of the World Trade Center where in March of 2002 protests against Plan Colombia and U.S. intervention turned violent and a protester was shot.
The Federacion de Estudiantes Universitarios (Federation of University Students) were the first group to challenge the closing of the streets. Hundreds of young men and women pushed and pulled at the line of shield-bearing police and the fence they had erected across Ave. 12 de Octubre. Batons came cracking down on any hands that were caught pulling or pushing on the fence.
Men and women shouted at the police to drop there shields and join them.
phrases such as "Stop defending the gringo empire" and "You are Ecuadorian too, fight ALCA (FTAA) not us" were heard.
Evetually those gave way to more heated exchanges.
After a series of struggles, which caused the cops to break their line a few times, police charged at protesters causing them to disperse. But the rapidly-growing crowd came back more energized and angry. Rocks began flying. Small ones at first and then larger ones. Soon the police line was being showered with rocks of all sizes and anything people could get their hands on. Eventually a molotov came flying in, but did not ignite as well as the half dozen other Molotov Cocktails thrown. As pressure from the students increased the police responded by moving in two armored personnel vehicles. After a brief regrouping the students went at the APV's with a fervor. A light pole was ripped out of the ground and hurled at one of the vehicles as well as hundreds of rocks. Soon protesters were climbing on the APV's as they rolled forward and back. With rocks and sticks they bashed the vehicles trying to break anything that would break on it.
Police once again responded, but this time with tear gas, causing a major disbursement. Only about a hundred dedicated militants remained at the front lines still hurling objects and obscenties at police. As more tear gas was fired, shot at the protesters themsleves, the crowd eventually pulled further back and toward side streets. Police moved in with the heavy vehicles and gave mild pursuit followed by even more tear gas.
This marks the first violent demonstration in Quito during the mobilizations these days that mark the FTAA Summit. More are sure to happen as the mobilizations increase in number and frequency. Logon to on for more information.



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