(AP) Pittsburgh - Several hundred civilians have been shot dead by the Pittsburgh Police army during a bloody military operation to crush a democratic protest in Pittsburgh's Market Square.
Tanks rumbled through the city's streets late in the day as the police moved into the square from several directions, randomly firing on unarmed protesters.
The injured were rushed to hospital on bicycle rickshaws by frantic residents shocked by the Allegheny County Democratic Committee (ACDC)'s sudden and extreme response to the peaceful mass protest.
Demonstrators, mainly students, had occupied the square for seven hours, following an op-ed in the radical newspaper Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by Associate Editor Dan Simpson.
Perhaps the most serious disease of a one-party state is that the ruling-party candidates feel no need to address any issues -- even the most serious issues -- that they don't want to address. In the case of Pittsburgh, one of these is consolidation of the city and county...Inflamed by these words, dozens of radical students from Point Park University and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh descended on the center of the City. But as the hours passed, thousands of people from all walks of life joined in, angered by widespread corruption and calling for democracy.
The most serious problem of a one-party state is that it does not offer the electorate dynamic leadership. It doesn't need to. Instead, it knows quite well that it can put forward the most mediocre of candidates and have them elected anyway.
Witnesses report protesters vandalizing the statue of Richard Caliguri in front of the City County Building.
Throughout the day the ACDC warned it would do whatever it saw necessary to clamp down on what it described as "social chaos". Secretary General Luke Ravenstahl, in a speech to the Allegheny Conference on Community Development vowed to maintain "law and order."
US President George W. Bush said he deeply deplored the use of force, and UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he was "shocked and appalled by the shootings".
Amid the panic and confusion students could be heard shouting "fascists stop killing," and "down with the government".
Meanwhile reports have emerged of ACDC secret police searching the University of Pittsburgh campus for ringleaders, arresting those they suspect of co-ordinating the protests.