Police use water cannon to break up protestorsOne day after the police drenched protestors with a water cannon for the first time in more than a year, the largest opposition party yesterday lashed out at the Park Geun-hye government for using such force to disperse the protests.
“For the first time under the Park Geun-hye government, the police used a water cannon against the people,” said Kim Han-gill, chairman of the Democratic Party, during a Supreme Council meeting held at the party’s tent headquarters set up in Seoul Plaza, central Seoul.
“The Park administration must keep in mind that there has been no precedent in which a government was able to stop people’s voices calling for democracy using water cannon or tear gas,” said Kim.
Since Aug. 1, the opposition party has been holding daily outdoor protests in Seoul Plaza to protest what it has called a limp investigation into the national spy agency’s alleged interference in last year’s presidential campaign.
On Liberation Day, which fell on Thursday, organizers said some 5,000 protestors rallied in central parts of Seoul, including near Seoul Station and Seoul Plaza in front of Seoul City Hall, calling for the dissolution of the National Intelligence Service.
The demonstrators also demanded the government push for better relations with North Korea.
The demonstrators were mostly university students and left-leaning civic group members.
The police estimated the number of protestors at 3,500.
The police fired a water cannon when some 1,500 protestors suddenly blocked traffic along an eight-lane boulevard linking Jonggak and Jongno 2-ga subway stations, a move that was not reported to the police in advance and was therefore illegal.
The water cannon was used to disperse them. No injuries were reported, the police said. It was the first time in 20 months that the police used force to control rallying crowds.
The police also rounded up more than 300 protestors on charges of using violence against the police or breaking laws on assembly and demonstrations, according to the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency.
“The MB government [referring to the Lee Myung-bak government] fired a water cannon against candle vigil protestors [five years ago], but not long after that it bowed its head before the people,” said Yang Seung-jo, a member of the DP’s Supreme Council.
BY KANG JIN-KYU, SHIN HYE-WON [firstname.lastname@example.org]