RANGOON — A group of demonstrators in Rangoon was violently dispersed by police on Tuesday, just minutes after they set out from Hledan junction for the heart of downtown. Scores of students and supporters congregated at around 2:30pm, but were soon intercepted by more than 100 baton-wielding police. Some demonstrators appeared to have been injured while at least one was handcuffed and detained, though he was released following pleas from other protesters. The group then agreed to disperse. The Rangoon demonstrators mobilized in response to a brutal crackdown on a core column of demonstrators in Letpadan, Pegu Division, during which police beat students, monks and journalists with batons and cleared out a protest site that had been occupied for a week. The Letapadan column was a holdout of a protest movement that began in November 2014, pushing for reform of the Natonal Education Law. While the government has agreed to amend the law and despite several warnings from authorities, demonstrators remained committed to taking their cause to Rangoon before pausing for exams and awaiting results from parliament. [irrawaddy_gallery] Last week, police surrounded the group and prevented their advance from Letpadan, prompting them to hold a sit-in outside a monastery where they have remained since. A solidarity protest in Rangoon on March 5 was violently dismantled by both police and a force of plainclothes men donning red arm bands reading “duty.” Students in Letpadan vowed to continue their march on Tuesday at 10am, and appeared set to do so as barbed-wire fences were removed. Following a dispute about whether the students could continue to Rangoon carrying flags, scuffles soon broke out between police, students and others at the site. Several protesters were injured as many were arrested and others fled into the homes and jungles nearby.
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