While the images of lawmakers and government officials being pushed and grabbed by opponents of pension reform efforts outside the Legislative Yuan in April have yet to fade away, the public should brace for an escalated version of the fracas as anti-reform advocates will reportedly join forces with opponents of same-sex marriage later this month.
On Monday, National Civil Servant Association president Harry Lee (李來希) told reporters that he wants to bring together “every civic group that is unhappy with the government” for a demonstration set to take place on National Police Day on Thursday.
Lee said that he was approached by a group opposed to same-sex marriage, which plans to voice its opposition during the demonstration, although none of the more vocal groups opposing gay marriage have admitted to seeking cooperation with Lee.
The idea of the two groups joining hands is daunting, particularly considering Lee’s response to criticism about his apparently deliberate failure to rein in uncalled-for violence at the April demonstration that he initiated.
Despite expressing regret to “individual assault cases,” Lee at the time said that he did not think the use of violence had much of an effect because the protesters merely “gave them [the legislators and government officials] a little bump.”
What Lee called a “little bump” caused injuries to many officials, including Taoyuan Mayor Cheng Wen-tsan (鄭文燦), who sustained multiple fractured ribs after he was assaulted by anti-reform protesters on his way to a joint committee meeting at the Legislative Yuan.
Under Lee’s leadership, a small fraction of the anti-pension reform movement has resorted to the use of violence to achieve its goals. The approach has caused the movement to lose legitimacy and has further reinforced the public’s already negative views about public servants, even though some of them support moderate reform to ensure sustainability of the pension system.
As New Power Party Legislator Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) said in response to Lee’s call for joint efforts, the anti-pension reform movement cooperating with other protesters shows that it is losing momentum. Unfortunately, that could lead to more drastic actions on Thursday by pension reform opponents out of desperation.
More worrisome is that protests against same-sex marriage were dogged by sporadic verbal attacks and physical assaults.
In December last year, a young man, surnamed Yang (楊), carrying a rainbow flag was elbowed and kicked by a participant at a rally against same-sex marriage. Yang sustained fractured ribs and chest contusions.
A few days later, Yang told a news conference that he saw other supporters of same-sex marriage assaulted during the protest.
On Monday, a public-school teacher, who appears to be a Christian and an opponent of same-sex marriage, took to Facebook to put a curse on “all Democratic Progressive Party lawmakers, the Presidential Office, the Executive Yuan, the Legislative Yuan, the Ministry of Justice and unjust courts and people.”
“God is going to send floods between Saturday and Friday next week ... to destroy their regime and homes,” she said, adding that those who support same-sex marriage or have participated in parades would also see their houses inundated with water.
The post reeks of hatred, irrationality and intolerance to different opinions — elements that can be easily observed in the rhetoric of most opponents of gay marriage.
Although violence might not be prevented in Thursday’s protest, its participants should bear in mind that violence does not generate respect, nor bring them closer to their goals; it would only achieve the opposite effect.
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