Last Updated Oct 19, 2016 3:12 AM EDT
MANILA, Philippines -- 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 Reuters news agency reports police used tear gas while breaking up the protest.
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, 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.