Anti-occupation protesters come out in thousands

TURNING THE TABLES?:Two groups, including one KMT-linked group, used democracy banners and freedom of speech slogans to rally against the students

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

Sun, Mar 30, 2014 - Page 1

More than 3,000 people clothed in white yesterday staged a protest against the student occupation of the Legislature Yuan shouting: “Return the Congress to me” and using a slogan shared by the protesting students: “Safeguarding democracy.”

Organized by a group called the White Justice Society League, demonstrators outside Taipei Main Station called for the restoration of the Legislature Yuan, the normalization of democracy and the protection of the freedom of speech.

Groups challenged the students’ protest and their cause using slogans including: “Rogue student movement cannot represent the people,” “Yes to cross-strait service trade agreement,” “Democracy is not limited to a single voice” and “Supporting the government’s forceful eviction of students.”

An organizer said the theme of the protest was purity, hope and peace. He denied the group had a party affiliation, saying they were acting on their own initiative.

Organization spokesperson Eric Szu-Wen Chou (周嗣文), an associate professor of economics at National Tsing Hua University, told the crowd that he was there for the aim of “doing the right thing” and “justice.”

“The right thing,” he said, is the protection of the freedom of speech and the protection of the vulnerable.

“There are different views about the pact in the society, but we have to remember a maxim of freedom of speech: ‘I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,’” he said, saying that louder voices should not oppress those with differing opinions.

Chou said a bill addressing long-term care services “is still lying idle in the Congress awaiting review and passage.”

Without the act, the rights of the vulnerable in our society are not protected, he said.

While the participants were mostly middle-aged adults, the organization said the demonstration was initiated by students and young office workers.

“The students did not want to be spokespeople because they were threatened,” an organizer said, without saying by whom.

Chinese Culture University history graduate student Lin Ming-cheng (林明正), one of the students holding banners, criticized the student occupation of parliament as illegal.

“So, do we storm into the office of the Democratic Progressive Party if we do not agree with it?” Lin asked.

Another student said it is ridiculous to condemn the police’s use of force and violent crackdown when it was the students who illegally broke into the Executive Yuan in the first place.

Separately, hundreds of people yesterday staged a carnation-themed gathering in Taipei, dubbed “Carnation embraces Sunflower,” which was initiated by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei City councilors Dai Hsi-chin (戴錫欽).

Event participants included family members of police officers.

“Many police officers, like my husband, have not returned home since March 18,” said one participant. “Let the overworked police go home and rest.”

Additional reporting by CNA