Riots in Plaza Italia erupt after La Roja triumph
As Spain kicked off against Honduras in South Africa today some 30, 000 people arrived in Santiago’s Plaza Italia to celebrate the triumph of Chile over Switzerland. A small contingent football hooligans disrupting the festivities in a repeat performance of last Wednesday after the team enjoyed their first World Cup win in forty-eight years.
The sheer amount of fans on the streets led to the closure of Alameda from the Paseo Ahumada to Baquedano and from Providencia Avenue, near Plaza Italia to the west of the plaza. There were also severe traffic disruptions as many fans tried to reach the scene by car.
Football fever charged the scene which played along without a problem until about 13:00 hours, when isolated incidents of anti-social behavior prompted action by the Carabineros Special Forces (GOPE). GOPE and police in riot gear were forced to intervene at 14:00 as groups of hooligans began to attack Police personnel in charge of security for the area.
Bengal flares were lit and a small section of the huge crowd began to throw bottles and sticks at each other. The same section of the crowd were further spurred on by the attempted looting of a branch of Telepizza but the worst affected was the Ruggantino restaurant, where vandals attempted to rip the iron security bars from the windows and doors and smash the windows, to which Riot Police responded quickly with water cannon swiftly bringing the situation under control.
Elsewhere, thousands of Chileans took to the streets to watch the match on huge communal screens set up throughout the country, including the President of the Republic Sebastian Pinera, who watched the game accompanied by his wife in Constitucion as he tours the earthquake disaster zone.