Over the past month the Wild Strawberry movement (野草莓學運) has attracted support from a wide cross section of Taiwanese society. Dressed in black t-shirts and sporting pink headbands, students and supporters converged at Freedom Square for a march through the streets of Taipei today. Originally a thousand people were expected to participate, however the crowd exceeded that number by many times#.
The protest assembled at Freedom Square were students spoke about the attacks on human rights that led to the protest action. Protesters arranged in groups with students taking the lead, followed by university professors, NGOs and the general public. The protest began marching north along Zhongshan Road.
Police were notable for their absence. Students took responsibility for managing the crowd and ensuring it moved along the road in an orderly fashion. The march passed by the Legislative Yuan, Executive Yuan and National Police Agency without incident. There were a few police inside the compounds of these buildings and at the Legislative Yuan riot shields were laid out on the ground. Of course their presence was totally unnecessary as the protesters all marched peacefully.
I was told that police issued warnings under the Parade and Assembly Law (集會遊行法). The march was illegal and conducted in order to nonviolently challenge the law. As the crowd was spread out over several blocks and there were very few police, the police had no way of dispersing the crowd anyway. This only serves to further highlight the ridiculousness of the law.
The march came to its finale on Ketagalan Boulevard. Police were lined up at the intersection of Gongyuan Road where the front of the parade came to a stop. Protesters sat down on the road while a funeral ceremony for human rights was conducted by the students. When this was finished it was announced that everyone should return to Freedom Square. The police gave some assistance directing traffic as the protest did a U-turn. The students thanked the police for their hard work.
The Wild Strawberry protest officially ended in the evening at Freedom Square after maintaining a continuous presence there for one month. While it has failed to achieve its three demands it has attracted much attention. The issue of human rights in Taiwan is being discussed domestically and internationally. The Legislative Yuan has been forced to to put amendments to the Assembly Law on its agenda. The government has been given notice that the people of Taiwan will not accept police violence and the abuse of human rights.
# I hesitate to provide an estimate of the crowd. Such estimates are often unreliable and subject to criticism. There were thousands of people marching. You can check other sources for more exact numbers.