Sun, Apr 11, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Rallies turn violent: Ma takes action

CROWD CONTROL What had been a large, peaceful protest turned into a angry demonstration as pan-blue supporters attacked the barricade on Ketagalan Blvd

By Huang Tai-lin and Joy Su  /  STAFF REPORTERS

Police use water cannons to disperse protesters after they clashed with police forces during the pan-blue alliance's demonstration on Ketagalan Boulevard yesterday.

PHOTO: SEAN CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

Pan-blue rallies yesterday again turned violent as protesters attempted to destroy the barricade seperating them from the Presi-dential Office.

Supporters of the opposition Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT)-People First Party (PFP) gathered on Ketagalan Boulevard for another demonstration, demanding a special task force be assembled to probe the election-eve assassination attempt on President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁).

As the pan-blue's rally turned towards violence yesterday evening, KMT Secretary General (林豐正) accused the pan-green camp of purposely inciting confrontation while DPP Deputy Secretary-General Lee Ying-yuan (李應元) said a lawsuit would be in order if the accusation were not retracted.

Taipei City Mayor Ma Ying-Jeou (馬英九) officially ordered the protest to disperse at 10:30pm. As of press time however, violence had continued to escalate.

While protestors had peacefully assembled in front of the Presidential Office yesterday afternoon, a confrontation between police and protestors broke out when protestors tore down the barricade blocking the protest at 6:07pm, and began knocking down scaffolding at 6:30pm.

Police began using water cannon against the crowds to put a halt to the violence at 7:05pm, and by 7:55pm, Ma ordered the police to step up their actions to deter illegal acts.

"The DPP has consistently worked to make improvements, and still, the pan-blue camp dares to make untrue accusations. If they do not take it back, the DPP will sue the KMT tomorrow," Lee saidin response to Lin's accusation.

While Lin and People First Party (PFP) Secretary General Tsai Chung-hsiung (蔡鐘雄) arrived at the scene of the rally shortly after violence broke out to calm pan-blue supporters, Lin said that KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and his running mate PFP Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜) were unable to be present.

However, shortly after Lin and Tsai's departure, a second wave of violence commenced, with protestors picking up fallen stage scaffolding and attempting to charge at the police. Other demonstrators used wooden planks to set up a barricade against police lined up in front of the Presidential Office.

At 10:30pm, as the crowds grew more aggressive, police began fighting off protestors with shields and batons as the agitated protestors threw at least two Molotov cocktails at police and engaged in violent physical clashes.

The latest reports indicated that at least seven people had registered at National Taiwan University Hospital with protest-related injuries.

Yesterday's protest was the latest in the series of weekly demonstrations staged by the pan-blue camp since the alliance's presidential candidate, Lien and Soong lost to Chen during the March 20 election with a margin of less than 30,000 votes.

Although he has not been able to produce proof, Lien made claims about voting irregularities, calling the election unfair and refusing to concede defeat. Raising question about the attack on Chen on March 19 -- which the alliance claimed was an attempt to win sympathy votes -- Lien urged Chen to form an independent task force to investigate the shooting, in which bullets grazed Chen's stomach and Vice President Annette Lu's (呂秀蓮) knee.

At the protest yesterday, Lien stressed that his appeals were not self-serving, but were out of his heartfelt concern over the nation's democratization.

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