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Riot police attack anti-Bush/U.S. mass rally

A tranquil downtown park was the site of an impassioned gathering of progressive forces against U.S. military and economic domination and for the peaceful and democratic reunification of the peninsula.

Source  :  BASE21

By Terry Park/Staff Reporter

February 20, 2002 -- A militant and spirited mass rally of hundreds of anti-Bush/U.S. activists at a downtown park in Seoul was violently disrupted late Wednesday afternoon as battalions of riot police, without warning, viciously attacked the peaceful crowd. People heroically resisted, throwing bottles, rocks, food, and wielding bamboo sticks and steel poles to drive back the cowardly capitalist thugs, but not before minor injuries were suffered and the placid park transformed into a veritable war zone.

As U.S. President George W. Bush visited the DMZ today in an arrogant ritualistic display of neo-colonial hegemoney, student, labor, farmer, and religious groups gathered under warm, clear blue skies at Chongmyo Park to protest a slew of issues: the beating of U.S. war drums on the Korean peninsula, the controversial Missile Defense system, the unequal U.S.-Korean investment treaty, and the proposed sale of fighter jets to the Kim Dae Jung administration. Anna Lee, a Catholic activist holding a banner that read, "U.S. making war around the world," argued, "Bush is being pushed by the defense industry. His purpose of the war in the Middle East is for oil, and his purpose for war against North Korea is the MD (Missile Defense) system. That is why he is exaggerating North Korea's missile capabilities."

The legally-permitted rally took place in a traditional Korean park amidst stone graves, cobblestone walkways, and small benches. However, this symbolic safe space was ringed with lines upon lines of riot police, batons rhythmically thumping against gloved palms. A stage featured speakers from various progressive organizations and revolutionary operatic music. Massive, colorful banners fluttered in the wind, proudly demonstrating the diversity and united resolve to stand up against hostile, oppressive forces, and the necessity to protect the sanctity of independence, democracy, and reunification. As Lee poignantly said, "It's a question of life or death for all Koreans."

This sacred ground was violated when nearby contingents of police, without warning nor provacation, suddenly stormed the middle of the crowd near the stage, and started to indiscriminantly beat people with sticks and shields. More cops quickly advanced upon the entire rally, causing a chaotic and frightened stampede. Many people fell and got trampled on, which resulted in numerous minor injuries. But as the mostly labor and farmer frontline stood their ground, chucking liquor bottles, pieces of rock, and swinging homemade weapons to stem the tide of dark blue, reinforcements returned to lend support to their battered comrades, and within a few minutes, the police retreated back to their original position. People cheered and clapped, but all too soon, as a few minutes later, a second wave of riot police came crashing even more aggressively, trading blows with armed activists, but also attacking unarmed bystanders. One woman was seen with a bloody head wound, and a young man, perhaps a student, lay unmoving on the ground, until people helped him up and carried him to an ambulance. Many people suffered from hand injuries as a result of sparring with the police.

There were an unconfirmed number of arrests. A video activist from Jinbonet was detained, and at the time of this report is still in jail, and will most likely not be freed until Bush leaves Korea, according to another Jinbonet member.

Finally, after the second wave was pushed back, the police retreated to the boundaries of the park for good. Revered Moon Jung Hyun, among others, gave impassioned speeches about the brutality of the cops, the compliance of the South Korean government, and the evil designs of Bush's "war on terrorism."

The rally ended a couple hour later without further police provacation. More demonstrations will follow as Bush nears the end of his South Korea visit.

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