The online news portal of TV5
SANTIAGO - Hooded protesters smashed bank windows and tore down traffic lights and signs before being dispersed by police firing tear gas and water cannon Tuesday at a rally in support of Chile's Mapuche Indians.
Sixteen people were arrested and six police officers were injured as violence erupted towards the end of the protest, police said.
The march to demand the restoration of lands that Chile's largest indigenous group claims as its own was held during a series of events commemorating the arrival of the Spanish in the Americas in 1492.
Police say 5,000 people took part in the procession through the center of Santiago, while organizers put the figure at 12,000.
During the march, Mapuche Indian men wore traditional dress -- with ponchos and feathers and arrows -- while women donned colorful fabrics with silver jewelry. Dance groups swayed to the beat of traditional Mapuche folk songs.
The Mapuche make up six percent of Chile's population of 16 million.
They are demanding the government return land they began to lose with the arrival of the Spanish, mainly in the southern Araucania region, home to most of Chile's Mapuche -- in all, some 2,000 communities.
"We are here, 520 years after the arrival of the Spanish, to say to the Chilean state in its capital that the Mapuche nation is alive, worthy and takes to the streets to defend rights usurped by the Chilean government," Manuel Calfiu, a Mapuche leader, told AFP.