Street rallies to be restricted for extent of Trump's visit

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Street rallies to be restricted for extent of Trump's visit

Police are set to restrict street rallies against the United States or President Donald Trump in areas near the presidential office in central Seoul during his visit to South Korea next week.

The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency has given notices rejecting most of the 50 applications for rallies filed by 220 progressive civic groups under the name of Collective Action for “No Trump,” according to police officials Thursday.

It will only allow two rallies to be held near Gyeongbok Palace, situated between the Blue House and Gwanghwamun Square, to guarantee freedom of assembly.

Trump is scheduled to arrive in Seoul for a two-day visit next Tuesday (local time). He is expected to meet with President Moon Jae-in for talks on a wide range of issues concerning the two allies, including North Korea’s nuclear provocations.

It is the first time the police have restricted protests since the liberal Moon took office in May. The president has stood for freedom of assembly since he was a presidential candidate. His government removed the policy of heavily guarding the Blue House surroundings - one of the choices preferred by his predecessor, ousted leader Park Geun-hye, for security reasons - and has opened the area to the public 24 hours a day since June.

But given the gravity of the summit, the restriction is necessary so long as it does not infringe individual rights to gather and speak out, the police said.

It is also in line with a presidential security law stating that the office can temporarily designate certain areas as off limits at the time of a visit from a head of a foreign state, they said.

From Tuesday to Wednesday, the central Gwanghwamun area encompassing the U.S. Embassy and the northern part of the Gwanghwamun Square that leads to the Blue House will be a rally-free zone.

Police are not excluding the possibility of stationing armed squads in case of any unexpected aggravation from protesters, they said.

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