I took many photos during the week of police and various forms of protest action. I tried hard to capture an important story as it unfolded. However, as I went through the photos I was filled with mixed emotions. They capture dramatic moments but they don’t tell the whole story. There was so much going on and it is easy for people to get the impression that Taipei had gone into a state of chaos. This was far from the case as the events conspired at a just a few locations in the city.
On Monday I wore a Free Tibet t-shirt. It seemed appropriate for the day and I never thought for a moment that it might cause any problems. Several ordinary citizens asked me if the police had said anything about my t-shirt. They didn’t. Similarly in the area I was at near the Grand Hotel several people were wearing t-shirts with pro-Taiwan slogans. Police didn’t do anything about them. However, I did observe police actively stopping anyone carrying symbols of protest getting closer to the Grand Hotel (detailed in an earlier post). I must add that police were always polite towards me and never tried to stop me from taking photos. At the Jingfu Gate (景福門) I got caught in a scuffle and the police allowed me to squeeze through behind their line.
On following days I deliberately wore neutral clothing. I avoided taking any flags or stickers or getting too involved in any political discussions. This was not because I was afraid of the police, but simply because I wanted to be in a position where I could observe and photograph what was going on without creating any problems. What follows is a few selected images with my comments. I hope it tells some more of the story of what happened during the week.
I really like this photo taken at the DPP rally in Jinan Road on the evening of 4 November. The man in the front came up to me and said, in English, “Please help Taiwan.”
Police lined up beside the Grand Formosa Regent (晶華酒店) on the evening of 5 November. It is difficult to estimate exactly how many police were present as they rotated their positions and took breaks inside the hotel. A crowd of more than a thousand people had spontaneously gathered to protest.
A man speaks to a group of about 14 people who spontaneously organised a sit down protest to resist the advancing line of police in riot gear. He said they should sit there and peacefully resist the police. About ten minutes later the people were forcefully removed by police.
The man in the centre of the photo tries to calm down angry protestors as they confront the police. It was actions like this that prevented the situation at Jingfu Gate from escalating into a bloody riot.
Police here are under attack from projectiles being thrown by the crowd near the Jingfu Gate. Some of the projectiles can be seen littering the ground in front of them.
As the police held their line behind their shields near the Jingfu Gate their faces showed little emotion. However, I got the sense they were tired and a little uneasy. They certainly didn’t look like they were aggressively ready to fight.
When the situation at the Jingfu Gate had calmed down, these two officers dropped back from the line and started chatting to me. They told me their names were “Mr C” and “Mr D”. They had come up to Taipei by bus in the morning from Taizhong County. Chatting with them really put a human face on the police force. They are just people doing an often difficult job.
After the police removed student protesters from the front of the Executive Yuan they reassembled on Friday evening at Freedom Square. They are continuing their protest to demand apologies from President Ma and Premier Liu as well as calling for changes to the Parade and Assembly Law.
I still stand by my comments earlier this week about Taiwan potentially becoming a police state. There is no doubt that the basic human rights and freedoms of the Taiwanese people came under attack in a way not seen in Taiwan for almost twenty years. I will try to discuss this further in another post.
*All the photos I took during the week are in the protests against Chen Yunlin set at flickr. I have also creatd individual sets for the Grand Formosa Regent protest, siege of Bo’ai and student protest at the Executive Yuan. All the sets are arranged in chronological order. There is also a short video of the 1106 protest. I didn’t record much video, but hopefully this gives an idea of the typical nature of a large protest.