MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Philippine police arrested 20 protesters who marked the Global Pride event with a march Friday to demand government aid for poor workers and drivers displaced by a monthslong coronavirus lockdown.
Manila police spokesman Lt. Col. Carlo Manuel said the 20 protesters staged a march and rally at a historic bridge near the presidential palace without a permit and defied orders when they tried to flee after being accosted. About 30 other protesters managed to flee, he said.
Rey Salinas of the Bahaghari protest group, who was among those arrested, told The Associated Press by telephone that they were about to start a rally after a brief march when riot police swarmed in. One officer forcibly took the key of a van used by the protesters and drove them off to a police station, she said.
“They initially can’t tell us what we violated. They said we were not observing social distancing but that’s not true,” Salinas said.
She said the protesters, who included members of LGBT groups, also aired their opposition to a new anti-terror law waiting to be signed by the president that could threaten civil liberties.
Metropolitan Manila, where the capital lies, is an epicenter of coronavirus infections in the Philippines, which on Friday reported more than 34,000 infections, including 1,224 deaths.
Left-wing and nationalist groups have accused President Rodrigo Duterte’s government of using the contagion and quarantine regulations as a cover to muzzle legitimate dissent and widespread complaints over the government’s mishandling of the pandemic.
Officials have defended the government’s response to the crisis, saying it saved large numbers of people from infection and death.
This story was first published on June 26, 2020. It was updated on June 30, 2020 to correct the gender of Rey Salinas of the Bahaghari protest group. Salinas identifies herself as female, not male.