To maintain security in the legislative chamber, which has been occupied since March 18 to protest the government’s handling of the cross-strait service trade agreement, graduate student, Huang Yen-ju (黃燕茹) heads up the security patrols who guard the entrance ways.
Huang is in charge of the Sunflower movement’s security division, a team of 80 students working in shifts to monitor the flow of people and goods at the legislative chamber’s eight entry points.
Huang said the pressure is quite intense.
“Most of the time, I get only two or three hours of sleep a day. At one point, I did not have a shower or bath for eight days,” she said.
She is pursuing a master’s degree in social work at Fu Jen Catholic University in New Taipei City.
Despite the heavy toll, she said: “I just want everyone who is caught up in this fight to have peace and safety.”
She has been involved in a campaign against media monopolization, protests against the demolition of Huaguang Community (華光) in Taipei, an environmental group’s fight against a windmill project in Miaoli County’s Yuanli (苑裡) and also the Dapu Borough (大埔) land expropriation case.
In the anti-media monopoly campaign last year, Huang broke through the legislature’s exterior gate with a dozen student activists, and staged an impromptu protest sit-in as legislators inside were deliberating a draft anti-media monopoly law.
She and other students laid down on the hot asphalt and refused to leave.
They were eventually carried away by police.
Last month, in a protest against the controversial Shihlin District urban renewal project in Taipei, known as Wenlin Yuan (文林苑), Huang climbed barriers and stayed atop them for two hours in an effort to block demolitions.
“When I was an elementary-school student, I saw on television that people’s houses were torn down so the Taipei City Government could go ahead with the No. 14 and 15 Park projects,” she said. “I was shocked. How can the government just go in and demolish people’s houses? That question reverberated in my heart for a long time.”
Last year’s anti-media monopolization campaign started her active engagement in social movements.
“The Ministry of Education sent documents to schools, requesting that they ‘monitor’ students who were participating in the protest. That filled my heart with anger,” she said.
She was then introduced into the Youth Alliance Against Media Monsters by Sunflower movement leader Lin Fei-fan (林飛帆).
Last year, she traveled around the country with other social activists to conduct activities and speak at rally events to promote their fight against media monopolization.
Speaking on the occupation of the Legislative Yuan, Huang said: “On the first day when I came in, I knew my job was to guard the doors. This is a battle zone.”
Huang said that protesters have been through difficult situations, because after their storming of the legislature on the night of March 18, they had to fend off several police attempts to eject them.
Always being on alert and making checks on suspicious people trying to enter, Huang said the “security divison” she headed up had discovered several police officers trying to infiltrate the chamber and stopped them from getting inside.
A few times, some “provocateurs” tried to bring in dangerous devices, she added.
There were also conflicts, as some outsiders, reporters and other groups did not want to comply with the student protesters’ security checks, which at times came with a search of personal baggage.