Wed, Oct 11, 2006 - Page 3 News List

National Day Protest: Red tide of protest swamps Taipei

TACTICS The anti-president campaign succeeded in disrupting the official national day ceremony and caused traffic chaos with impromptu `parades' in the afternoon

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

Red-clad protesters participating in yesterday morning's anti-Chen Shui-bian ``siege'' block the intersection of Chongqing S Rd and Wuchang St, bringing traffic to a complete standstill.

PHOTO: WANG MIN-WEI, TAIPEI TIMES

Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets yesterday in the "siege" around the Presidential Office building aimed at pressuring President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) to step down.

The "siege" was launched by the anti-Chen campaign led by former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) chairman Shih Ming-teh (施明德).

The protest began at 9am as red-clad protesters gathered at four locations a few blocks away from the Presidential Office building. The protesters shouted "A-bian step down" and flashed the thumbs down gesture at the time Chen was scheduled to give a speech at the stage outside the Presidential Office building.

Despite the protest being illegal because the anti-Chen camp organizers had not applied for a permit, the Taipei City Police Department did not disperse the crowd even though they gave several warnings.

POLITICAL ISSUE

Showing up at the Taipei Railway Station at 10am, Shih said the demonstration was a political issue.

"Whether or not the siege should be dispersed is not a legal issue, but a political one ? The most important thing is that President Chen needs to make a decision in response to the people's demands," he said.

Shih said the morning "siege" had set another record -- after the first "siege" on Sept. 15 -- because more than 1.5 million people had taken part. Shih urged Chen to respond to demands that he step down and vowed to continue the protest until the president did so.

"I stand by the people, and I will not leave if the people want to stay," he said.

Police estimated that approximately 120,000 people participated in the "siege."

AFTERNOON LOGJAMS

Shortly after 4pm, Shih led his followers in a parade rally along Zhongxiao W Road, Zhongxiao E Road, Dunhua S Road and Nanjing E Road before returning to the Taipei Railway Station. A second wave of rallies was held four hours later.

Taipei City's transportation department said the afternoon rally created traffic problems.

"What we can do now is monitor the rallies and control the traffic flow," said Lin Li-yu (林麗玉), deputy commissioner of the department.

Several violent incidents were reported yesterday morning, as protesters tried to block officials, pan-green legislators and foreign guests from entering and leaving the Double Ten National Day ceremony in front of the Presidential Office building.

While apparently condemning the violence, Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said the police would not disperse the protesters unless necessary, even though the "siege" was illegal.

"The police department does not rashly disperse protesters. Besides, we only have about 5,000 police today, while there are tens of thousands of protesters. It's hard for the police to disperse such a big crowd," Ma said at the Taipei Police Department in the morning.

In the afternoon, however, he urged the anti-Chen campaign to consider the rights of Taipei's residents. He also said the police would enforce the law against any illegal demonstrations.

Chien Hsi-chieh, deputy coordinator of the anti-Chen campaign, said yesterday's protests were a way of celebrating the nation's birthday.

"It was not necessary to apply for a parade permit for today. It's our way of celebrating the nation's birthday," he said.

VIOLENCE CONDEMNED

Meanwhile, Minister of the Interior Lee Yi-yang (李逸洋) condemned the acts of violence by anti-Chen protesters, saying that the government would not tolerate them.

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