Ever since the Congress Occupied protest begin, I have been following the event closely.
I checked my Facebook feed and the news multiple times through out the day, and there was something interesting that readers can't miss. Even though the protest had been set as citizens against the government, newspapers are twisting it to be otherwise. The pro-KMT news media are describing the protesters as violent mobs with total disregard to the law, drinking and vandalizing at the scene. The pro-DPP news media are not defaming the protesters so much, but they are blurring the focus and placing the blame on KMT, KMT is the ruling party and will do whatever Ma says, but turning this on KMT seems to make DPP free from liability, which is not what the people want. And the most prominently pro-China news media? Well, when all the headlines were about the protest, theirs were totally irrelevant, as if nothing happened, and their front page was filled with ads glorifying the Cross-Strait Service Trade Agreement and defaming those against it. Go figure.
On the other hand, my Facebook feed is full of pictures that tell a entirely different story. So on Friday, as way to show support and to see for myself what the situation is, I went to the protest scene.
First, a background information on the structure of the protest. On Tuesday, the main leaders of this movement broke into the Legislative Yuan and occupied the building, intending to keep the legislation from holding meetings that will pass the Agreement in question. Very soon the police surrounded the building, trying to pull the protesters out of the Legislative Yuan. Then more protesters gathered outside the Legislative Yuan, shouting to surround the police if they choose to use violent force on the students inside. To avoid further confrontation, the police was ordered to stay put, resolving to keeping any more people from going in the congress. Only medical personnel are allowed in and out. The police have been guarding the building ever since, and more and more protesters gathered outside, pouring onto the streets near the building. Most of the protesters are actually sitting outside even though the movement is called Congress Occupied.
With this knowledge, I knew I wasn't going to be able to get inside the Legislative Yuan to witness the core of the protest, so my objective was to walk down the main streets outside the building and observe the event from there.
My school is very close to the Legislative Yuan, so I planned on walking there with a couple friends after their morning classes. When I got to school, I saw multiple chevaux-de-frises on the way. I later learned that the police had blocked off all roads near the Presidential Office and Ma's residence. Because of the blockades, we walked a bit more than we usually had to.
When we got to the Legislative Yuan, I was first taken back by the many colourful flags and banners present. Some of them were from the Congress Occupied movement, but more of them were from other political organizations sneaking in their own political agenda. The main entrance to the Legislative Yuan has been taken over by those groups, and they were making speeches on Taiwan independence/ anti-China/ anti-KMT/ free people and whatnot.
I stayed away from that part and walked over to ChingDao East Road(青島東路), where the main focus of the protest is.
At the entrance of ChingDao East Road, the first thing I see is very organized supply stations and staff managing the place. When I got closer, I heard that one of them was asking for volunteers to hand out food, so I volunteered. My friend and I was given two bags of warm burgers each and asked to distribute them to the people in the sit-ins on the street. We walked down the road and asked if anyone wanted burgers, most of them were shy and did not ask for the food, so it took us some time to hand them all out. Those who did take the burgers kept saying thank yous and encouraging words to us, making me feel undeserving since I just got there and they had been sitting on the cold hard road for days.
After finishing our small task, we walked further down the road to meet with our other friends. There were tens of thousands of people there and we were moving ahead very slowly, giving me plenty of time to observe the crowd. To get their point across to the president and the world without being tagged as irrational mobs, the leaders and every participant of the movement did everything they could to be orderly and organized, and they certainly achieved that.
In the center of the road, tens of thousands of citizens, including students and non-students, sat quietly listening to the broadcast speeches made by movement leaders or doing their own thing. There are volunteers walking up and down the road handing out supplies including food, water, hand warmers, blankets and more to the sitting crowd. People receive the supplies in a orderly fashion, and there are volunteers collecting trash every 5 minutes. All the supplies were donated by Taiwanese people to show their support. Supplies were going inside the area in unit of trucks. The most expensive items donated were stage equipment and portable toilets.
|this reads: I'm against the black box operation of the trade agreement, I'm also against CtiTV lying to my parents (with false reporting)|
|the first line reads: there is no riots here, just false reporting.|
Every media in Taiwan had Satellite News Gathering cars parked along the road, even though most of them were delivering false or misleading reports on the protest, no damage was done to their cars or personnel beside a few protest stickers on the cars.
After I finally found my other friends, we sat down on the road and joined the crowd. We were too far from the main stage to hear the announcements and speeches, so we chatted. In the duration of our time spent there, there were multiple rounds of food hand outs, and we fed on hot meals, desserts and drinks. I have to admit, for a split second I thought about the possibility of the food being drugged by malicious people, but then I decided to have faith in people.
Internet and cellphone reception was weak, probably due to the overload of needs.
I sat for around 3 hours, then my back started to ache like I've been there for 3 days. I was in poor shape, and I felt like I was going to be carried out on a stretcher if I stayed any longer, so I had to leave. I was embarrassed at how little time I was out there on the streets, but I consoled myself by thinking that I could do more writing English messages than complaining about my backache outside. A lot of my friends had been on the street for days and nights, and I really admire their will power and commitment.
It was very clear from my experience at the scene that the protesters are not the mob as the media is making them out to be. I have participated and organized many events in my life and I have to say, this is the most organized event I've ever been to, which is pretty impressive considering all the staff are volunteers with little to no training.
While I applaud the people's self-restraint and good intentions, I feel this is getting to be a bit too ridiculously peaceful. Protesters are holding back their rage and focusing on being an rational bunch, while Ma and his KMT members stay at home unaffected. I'm not encouraging people to throw gas bombs and pulling down towers now, but there are more and more people who question the overly peaceful manner the leader Chen Fei Fan is leading the crowd now, and there has been debates within the protesters on whether they should take more drastic measures than just sitting on the streets. For now, Th main appeal is still non-violence. Is this peaceful movement going to yield any results? We'll see.