In a May Day show of force, police used water hoses, tear gas and pistol shots into the air to break up clashes between followers of deposed president Ferdinand Marcos and government supporters.
At least 25 persons, including three policemen, were injured, mostly with cuts from stones and broken bottles. One man was stabbed and reported in serious condition. More than 60 Marcos loyalists were arrested.
The incident became the first major test of President Corazon Aquino's policy of "maximum tolerance" toward Marcos supporters, who have been demonstrating for three weeks for their leader's return by pitching tents in front of the U.S. Embassy. Aquino had been reluctant to take strong action against them, in spite of their assaults on passers-by.
The embassy is adjacent to Luneta Park, where the president gave a May Day speech.
Security around the park was tight, with the main boulevard from the embassy to the park blocked with barricades and barbed wire to keep away about 10,000 Marcos supporters, rallying there in response to a telephone message from Marcos in Hawaii calling for a large May Day turnout.
Aquino had to fly in by helicopter to address 20,000 workers from leftist and moderate trade unions. The rioting broke out as she was speaking but took place out of her view. Police let the riot continue for two hours before moving in.
Apparently the Aquino supporters began the fighting, according to Information Minister Teodoro Locsin Jr.
As the rock throwing intensified, police charged into the Aquino supporters, firing tear gas and shooting into the air. The police then used tear gas and water hoses to push the Marcos loyalists back toward the U.S. Embassy.
After six hours, about 1,200 riot police, reinforced by 300 soldiers and a dozen fire trucks, finally moved in with a strong burst of tear gas and water hoses, dispersed the loyalists and dismantled their tent city.