중앙데일리

‘Hi Seoul’ opening hit by protests from past

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May 04,2009
The opening ceremony of Hi Seoul Festival 2009 was abruptly canceled Saturday night as protesters occupied the main stage of the annual festival. The protesters were marking the first anniversary of last year’s candlelight vigils. By Choi Jeong-dong
The opening ceremony of Hi Seoul Festival 2009 on Saturday at Seoul Plaza in front of City Hall in downtown Seoul was abruptly canceled after a small band of determined demonstrators hijacked the stage to commemorate the first anniversary of protests over imports of American beef.

The Seoul Metropolitan Government said yesterday that civil and criminal complaints will be filed against protest organizers.

“The amount of damage caused is really unfathomable,” city government spokesman Jeong Hyo-sung said. “Citizens who came to the plaza to have a good time and celebrate the launch of the festival had to return home. They are fed up with demonstrators ruining everything.”

A total of 112 protesters were taken to police stations following skirmishes with riot police. An alliance of civic groups began a rally at 4:40 p.m. at the Seoul Station Plaza, central Seoul, to mark the first year of candlelight vigils over renewed imports of U.S. beef that some believed were linked to the human form of mad cow disease.

“Even though unemployment is surging and social hardships are deepening due to the ongoing economic slowdown, the government and ruling party are blaming irregular workers and ordinary citizens,” said demonstrators. “We need to stand against the government with the spirit that we had last year.”

Two protesters were detained by the police following initial clashes as the group was moving toward City Hall at 5:50 p.m. Police took another 68 into custody as they tried to contain and disperse protesters who were beginning to occupy the main stage where the festival was scheduled to kickoff around 8 p.m. An additional 42 were captured between 9 and 11:40 p.m. as more than 500 protesters moved their rally to Myeong-dong, downtown Seoul.

Meanwhile, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said yesterday that it will hold accountable those arrested Saturday. The police said the 112 protesters were being questioned in 10 different precincts. “That they illegally occupied the location where the event was supposed to be held and disrupted the event is simply unacceptable,” said an officer, requesting anonymity.

Before Saturday’s roundup, police detained one and sought an arrest warrant against four of some 129 protesters who were detained by police on charges of staging illegal rallies beginning Thursday. The police launched investigations on the remaining 124.



By Jang Joo-young, Lee Min-yong [smartpower@joongang.co.kr]



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