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Violent Protests Increasing: Report

Posted December. 29, 2006 07:20,   


The total number of demonstrations held this year is less than last year, but the number of people punished for illegal violent demonstrations has increased.

The “legal demonstration agreement system,” newly introduced to prevent accidental clashes between demonstrators and the police, was good for nothing. The police thus failed to fulfill its goal of establishing a peaceful demonstration culture in 2006.

With more mass demonstrations such as rallies against Korea-U.S. FTA or against the relocation of U.S. military bases to Daechu-ri, Pyeongtaek, the number of participants in gatherings did not fall and more police were mobilized to handle demonstrators.

More Demonstrators Arrested –

According to the National Police Agency on December 28, there were 9,574 gatherings in total by November 30 this year, a 7.1 percent fall from last year (10,310). However, the number of people punished for illegal violent demonstrations increased 25 percent from 6,266 to 8,325. Especially, the number of people arrested was 272, a 37 percent increase from last year’s 199.

2.47 million people in total, the same as last year, participated in gatherings this year, but the number of police mobilized against illegal violent demonstrations was 3.35 million.

Choi Jong-sul, professor of Law and Police Administration at Dong-eui University, said, “More people participated in gatherings as joint gatherings for social reforms increased. It led to the mobilization of more police this year. The police need to change focus from preventing illegal demonstrations to applying law more strictly.”

Some Groups Not Following Peaceful Demonstration Guidelines–

The police introduced a “legal demonstration agreement system” this year to prevent accidental clashes between demonstrators and policemen. The point is that if the group hosting a gathering promises to follow the agreed guideline for a peaceful demonstration, the police will try to avoid clashes.

However, some groups ignored the agreement. When the police prohibited gatherings scheduled on November 29 and December 6 by groups against Korea-U.S. FTA after their gathering on November 22 turned violent, the groups protested against the decision, saying, “It transgresses the freedom of gatherings guaranteed by the Constitution.”

The police are operating a “joint situation room,” in which police and demonstration representatives can meet for negotiations, at a demonstration site where more than a thousand people gather.

However, the new system has not been effective since groups hosting gatherings often refuse to negotiate. A source in the police agency said, “Even if we persuaded the representative, some radical demonstrators led the demonstration to turn violent.”

National Police Agency head Lee Taek-soon said in his email to 150,000 policemen on December 10, “Our efforts to introduce a peaceful demonstration culture seemed to work at the time, but ended up a failure.”

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