The court ruling for compensation to be paid over the March 24, 2014, expulsion of protesters from the Executive Yuan has proved controversial.
Politicians have tried to fan tensions between the police and the public, branding the protesters a violent mob and saying that the expulsions were entirely legal. If that were an accurate characterization of the events that night, why did the court determine that officers had used excessive force? This is especially odd, as securing state compensation in a court case is no easy feat.
Why, then, are many people still asking whether the officers who used physical force have been identified?
The events happened five years ago. The reason they remain so contentious is that the police have yet to produce the “truth” of the expulsions.
Such evidence would include the many video recordings the police have, the decisionmaking process and chronology of events, and the number and causes of injuries sustained by police officers and members of the public. This, coupled with the fact that people are largely in the dark about exactly what happened on the night the police expelled journalists or kept them at bay, has left much room for politicians to distort the facts.
It is hardly surprising that people remain suspicious, as they do not know that the group who broke into the Executive Yuan on that night — and who were not among the plaintiffs — had been taken into custody by 10pm on March 23.
It was not until the early hours of the 24th that the police moved to expel the unarmed and defenseless people peacefully staging a sit-in protest outside the building. It was them who sought compensation from the police.
This group had been engaged in a peaceful protest on Beiping E Road and on a driveway on the Executive Yuan grounds. They were not among those subsequently labeled a “mob.” Many of them had not even entered the grounds.
On the night of the 24th, beyond the reach of media cameras, many out-of-control officers used batons, shields, fists and feet against members of the public unable to fight back, beating them about the head and kicking those who had been thrown to the ground on the lower body, or training high-pressure hoses on their heads.
There is even footage of onlooking officers shouting “kick the [expletive] out of them” in Taiwanese to their colleagues.
The police have the right to legally expel protesters, but that surely does not extend to them beating defenseless members of the public who had themselves not engaged in violent behavior. Otherwise, what would be the difference between how the police act here and how they act in totalitarian China?
The government should arrange for the immediate release of the police video of that night so the truth can be known and the parties can enter into dialogue with a better understanding of what happened. This will prevent unscrupulous politicians from spreading misinformation to stir up social tension, labeling the victims of state-orchestrated violence a “mob” and sullying the judiciary’s name.
It will also allow people to understand that there were also officers on the scene who were simply enforcing the law, and that not all of them are “bad cops.”
Diligent officers and peaceful protesters alike act out of profound patriotism because they cannot bear to see our democracy falter. They deserve to know the truth.
Kuo Hao-jen is a lawyer.
Translated by Paul Cooper
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