The people of Chileans gathered early in the day in demonstrations downtown and in cites throughout Chile.
Many touted signs and rainbow colored homemade banners calling for a “yes” vote next Sunday in a referendum over whether to scrap the country’s dictatorship-era Constitution, a key demand of the 2019 protests.
But tens of thousands of Chileans gathered in the central square of Santiago to mark the one-year anniversary of mass protests that later left over 30 dead and thousands injured.
The peaceful rallies happened on Sunday devolving by nightfall into riots and looting.
While largely peaceful early on, were marred by increasing incidents of violence, looting of supermarkets and clashes with police across the capital later in the day.
This is coming big, as fire truck sirens, burning barricades on roadways and fireworks on downtown streets added to a sense of chaos in some neighborhoods.
Interior Minister, Victor Perez called on Chileans to settle their differences by voting in the upcoming Oct. 25 constitutional referendum.
He added that, “Those who carry out these acts of violence do not want Chileans to solve our problems through democratic means,” Perez told reporters, vowing to punish those who crossed the line Sunday.
Vandals attacked another Santiago Church in the early evening, setting its spire aflame and choking side streets with smoke.
Police fired tear gas and water cannons in skirmishes with sometimes violent, hooded and masked people, while more than 15 metro stations were temporarily closed amid the unrest.
Rioting and looting resulted in billions of dollars in damage and losses to the country’s businesses and infrastructure. The unrest saw the military take to the streets for the first time since the rule of dictator Augusto Pinochet.
Police estimated that Sunday’s rally in Santiago attracted around 25,000 people by 6 p.m., far smaller than the largest protests of 2019.