Chilean vandals loot Catholic church, set fire to religious artifacts

Chilean police officers set on fire by protesters’ Molotov cocktails

Police officers in Chile’s capital were set on fire after demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails in their direction. Unrest in Chile began 19 days ago over a hike to subway fares and has grown into a massive movement demanding broad changes.

Demonstrators in Chile looted a Roman Catholic church Friday amid weeks of violent unrest triggered by a proposed four-cent subway fare hike that has since evolved into larger dissatisfaction over income inequality.

The hooded vandals were spotted by an Associated Press photographer dragging church pews, religious statues and iconography onto the street in the capital city of Santiago and lighting them on fire.

Items removed from a church by anti-government protesters go up in flames in a barricade built by the protesters in Santiago, Chile on Friday.  (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

In the city's main square nearby, thousands of demonstrators waved national flags as they continued to clash with riot police.

At least 20 people have died since protests began last month.

A damaged statue taken from a church forms part of barricade created by anti-government protesters, in Santiago . (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

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Two female police officers were set on fire Monday when Molotov cocktails were thrown in their direction. Other demonstrators have thrown rocks at authorities, who have responded with water cannons and tear gas.

On Thursday, Chilean President Sebastián Piñera announced tougher measures to quell the violence and stiffen penalties for vandalism in an effort to restore social order.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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