Seven civic groups yesterday accused Taipei police of being “out of control” and resorting to “violent means” to evict antinuclear protesters who occupied Zhongxiao W Road on Sunday to stage an overnight sit-in.
The groups, including the National Nuclear Abolition Action Platform, the Taiwan Association for Human Rights and the Taipei Society, leveled the accusations at a morning press conference held in front of the Presidential Office Building.
The protesters occupied the often congested section of Zhongxiao W Road in front of Taipei Railway Station on Sunday afternoon in a bid to force the government to respond positively to their demands that the construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District (貢寮) be immediately halted and the voting threshold for national referendums lowered.
Acting on Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin’s (郝龍斌) orders, riot police fired water cannons at the crowd of activists to disperse them at 2:47am on Monday, before starting to forcibly push and drag protesters away.
Normal traffic flow on the road was restored about 6:50am.
One of the protesters evicted that night, a man surnamed Shen (沈), said that he had been standing in the front line of the crowd when police officers pushed him to the ground and ripped his gauze face mask off.
“Several officers dragged me by my ankles into a corner and then one of them said: ‘This one hit a police officer,’ and they all started beating me with their batons and shields,” Shen said, adding he heard officers shouting: “Let’s beat the hell out of him.”
He was handcuffed and denied his right to counsel even though he had put his hands up and told the officers he would not resist, Shen said.
“After I was detained for six hours, the police told me they had no idea who had arrested me and that they were unable to find any video footage confirming my account of the attack,” Shen said.
Lin Hsiu-yi (林秀怡), secretary-general of the Awakening Foundation, said she was astonished to see some officers trying to use a water cannon to remove a female protester’s pants.
“They even fired water at the rest of the crowd to prevent other protesters from seeing what they were doing to this woman,” Lin said.
Taipei Society head Liu Ching-yi (劉靜怡) questioned the police’s move to dispatch SWAT team officers to remove press photographers and reporters from a pedestrian overpass.
“What law did the reporters break by standing on the footbridge? The only logical explanation is that the police were trying to impede them from documenting the event,” Liu said.
Chang Shu-hui (張淑惠), head of the Association of Parent Participating Education in Taiwan, which mobilized 10 couples and their 12 children to participate in the occupation, accused the police of putting the children’s lives in danger.
“The police marched threateningly toward us and our children even after forcing us to retreat to the sidewalk... We demand that Mayor Hau apologize and take responsibility for the officers’ reprehensible behavior,” Chang said.
Taiwan Association for Human Rights deputy director Tseng Wei-kai (曾威凱) said the eviction was “an act of sheer abuse,” adding that the protesters were vastly outnumbered by police and hit by water cannons at close range.
“The police handled the situation flippantly and treated it as a chance to exact vengeance. They were out of control,” Tseng said. “The nation has lost its sanity.”