As President Donald Trump joined his Philippines counterpart Rodrigo Duterte and other leaders from across Asia for an extravagant gala dinner, protesters earlier had violently battled with local riot police, leaving several on both sides injured.
Thousands of activists marched to the U.S. Embassy in Manila on Sunday to protest Trump’s arrival to attend a summit with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and other East Asian nations. Trump also is expected to hold several meetings with Duterte, who Trump has praised for doing an “unbelievable” job in his murderous war on drugs that has left thousands dead with no accountability or justice.
According to The Guardian, protesters were confronted by police with riot shields and then blasted with water cannons in the Philippines capital. In addition to hating Trump, protesters believe the U.S. wants to add more military bases in their country. To denounce that, demonstrators carried signs declaring, “Down with U.S. Imperialism.”
CNN Philippines described Sunday’s march to the U.S. Embassy as a “melee.” The report said that nine protesters were injured—including three who sustained “deep head wounds” and were rushed to a local hospital—and 23 police officers, most of whom “received scratches.”
Trump is wrapping up a 12-day, five–nation tour of Asia that has been overshadowed by his informal meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his siding with Putin over the U.S. intelligence community regarding the Kremlin’s involvement in disrupting the 2016 elections in the U.S.
Trump, who has a penchant for praising and admiring dictators, is not expected to hold Duterte’s feet to the fire regarding human rights abuses. Duterte, who took office in June 2016, campaigned on a platform to “kill all of you who make the lives of Filipinos miserable,” according to Human Rights Watch.
Since Duterte took office, the Philippines has seen an unprecedented level of extrajudicial killings, mostly by police, and mostly under the guise of a local war on drugs. Estimates of the death toll range anywhere from 5,000–10,000.
In a phone call to Duterte last April, Trump reportedly said, “I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job on the drug problem. Many countries have the problem, we have a problem, but what a great job you are doing and I just wanted to call and tell you that.”