Anti-riot police on Friday blocked several thousand militant farmers and left-wing groups from getting too close to the presidential palace in their protest to demand the ouster of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The 17,000-strong police force in Manila have gone on full alert to deal with almost-daily protests, some of which have turned violent after authorities trained water cannons on anti-Arroyo activists last week.
Protesters accused Arroyo of vote rigging, corruption and repression, but the president on Thursday brushed aside the charges, saying, "A state that cowers in fear before the mob cannot stand for long."
Arroyo has angered protesters by imposing a strict "no permit, no rally" policy, saying the noisy demonstrations that snarl traffic in crowded commercial districts were becoming a nuisance.
Friday's rally was the largest in several weeks, gathering up to 10,000 mostly farmers and fishermen who traveled from provinces north and south of Manila.
They were stopped outside the historic Mendiola bridge, which has become a shrine for protesters, several hundred meters (yards) from the presidential palace gates, the AP reports.
A brief scuffle erupted when a group of protesters tried to push their way toward the palace, only to be repulsed by a phalanx of riot police, Manila Radio DZBB reported. Several officers were reported injured after being hit by flying objects.
Arroyo said Thursday she would not buckle amid the protests and would strengthen the government against those who attempt to destabilize it. Metropolitan Manila police chief Vidal Querol said plainclothes agents will monitor Friday's rally after receiving information that communist rebels might provoke trouble.
The presidential palace has also been placed on high security amid persistent coup rumors.
Arroyo's opponents have intensified protests after the House of Representatives, which is dominated by the president's allies, threw out impeachment charges against her on a technicality in late August.
She has been accused of rigging last year's elections, but has denied any wrongdoing and refused to step down.
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