Police use batons, water cannons against protesters

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Tue, Apr 29, 2014 - Page 1

The National Nuclear Abolition Action Platform yesterday accused the government of using state violence to evict anti-nuclear protesters who occupied Taipei’s Zhongxiao W Road on Sunday evening into early yesterday morning.

Tens of thousands of people on Sunday afternoon marched in an anti-nuclear protest march from Ketagalan Boulevard in front of the Presidential Office Building to Zhongxiao W Road in front of the Taipei Railway Station, where they lay down or sat in the road, paralyzing traffic in an area usually thronging with cars and buses.

At about 9pm on Sunday, the National Nuclear Abolition Action Platform, which organized the protest, said it was not satisfied with the announcement that the govenment would halt construction of the two reactors at the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant because it was made by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), rather than the Executive Yuan.

It announced that the protesters would continue paralyze the road until they get an acceptable official response.

At about 10:30pm, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) said the city government would use any means to restore traffic for Taipei residents by yesterday morning.

Despite being warned in advance by protest organizers that a forced eviction could take place after midnight, more than 1,000 protesters remained sitting on the road in raincoats, with their arms locked together.

After advising the protesters to leave on their own accord at about 12:30am yesterday, the police turned water cannons on the crowd at 2:47am, followed by police forcibly dragging away the protesters at about 2:50am, gradually herding the crowd from Guanquan Road toward Zhongshan S Road.

Several clashes broke out as rows of police with batons and shields in hand forcefully pushed the protesters to move as protesters chanted: “Terminate the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant and return power to the people,” “the people are unarmed so the police should not use violence” and “Police please step back.”

Sunflower movement student leaders Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷) and Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆) were pulled from the ground and taken into a police bus, and many other protesters were forced to leave the street after being pulled up.

Protesters shouted: “There are children in the tents” when the police got close to tents with children in them, but the police continued herding the crowd and cleared most of Zhongxiao W Road by about 5am, with only about 100 protesters on the ground encircled by the police at the intersection with Zhongshan S Road.

During the eviction, police fired water cannons directly at the protesters more than a dozen times.

At about 6am, protesters were still being dragged or carried away one-by-one, and several reporters were also treated violently as they were evicted near the intersection, with a few of them banned from taking photographs, or hit with batons by the police, causing physical injuries or damage to equipment.

Traffic was restored on Zhongxiao W Road at about 6:50am, and some remaining protesters were forced to move to Zhongshan S Road.

Later yesterday, the National Nuclear Abolition Action Platform issued a statement saying that “Mayor Hau promised to return a normal life to citizens, but the danger caused by nuclear power has the real, serious impact on people’s lives.”

“Hau gave up the peaceful measure of asking the Cabinet to make an official and positive response, but ordered the police to use force against unarmed citizens, which is the worst measure to treat the people,” it said, adding that it “strongly condemns the government of using inappropriate violence.”

It urged protesters who were harmed or treated inappropriately during yesterday’s eviction to contact the platform for medical and judicial assistance, and urged people to submit photographic evidence of the eviction process.

Separately, Taipei Police Zhongzheng First Precinct investigative team head Chou Yu-wen (周郁文) said five people were arrested and 40 were injured early yesterday when police began dispersing the protesters.

National Taiwan University Hospital said it had treated 26 people, most of them with external injuries.

Some of the injured were also taken to Taipei City Hospital, where three of them were hospitalized for observation and 11 were treated and released, according to Ministry of Health and Welfare statistics.

Additional reporting by CNA