중앙데일리

Vigils to be policed as 'political'

Jan 03,2003
Police officials yesterday criticized the New Year's Eve candlelight protest for two school girls killed last summer when they were hit by a U.S. military vehicle as too violent and deviating from the stated purpose.

"The candlelight protests are transforming into political rallies," said Lee Dae-gil, chief of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency. "If the protests are twisted away from their original meaning, which is cherishing the memory of the girls, we will regard them as unapproved rallies."

Mr. Lee said the Tuesday night protest had a tendency toward violence. "We will protect memorial protests for the girls," he said. "But if they become mass demonstrations, we will strictly control them."

The police forcibly dispersed the protesters who rallied around Gwanghwamun, central Seoul, on New Year's Eve. The protest went on past midnight and two companies of riot police were sent in to break it up. It was the first occasion in which the police forcibly ended one of the candlelight protests, which have been staged since last November.

"It was an overnight protest, which is prohibited by current laws," another police official explained. "We had no choice but to disperse the protesters."

The Pan National Committee, an association of civic groups that has been staging protests since the deaths of the girls, denounced the action by the police. "The forcible break up of our protest is equivalent to using government power to block the demands of the public," an official of the Pan National Committee said in press conferences yesterday and on Wednesday. The committee plans another large-scale candlelight protest Saturday evening.

by Yoon Chang-hee




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