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Team Police vs. Team Protesters: Who Made Them Fight?

   
 
  ▲ Yim Jae-hyuck, a student majoring in School of International Studies at Kwansei Gakuin University, one of the twinned universities of Dongguk.  
 
   On November 14th, Sunday afternoon, about 130,000 citizens sacrificed their weekend and gathered to raise their voices. They participated in “11.14 Public Rally” to oppose the President Park’s labor and education reform. The police setup the buses to block the road in order to prevent the protesters from marching toward the Blue House. After the protest, public’s opinions on the issue divided into two sides: blaming on the excessive use of force by the police and on the violent protest. Such conflicts happened as one old man got shot on his head with water cannon, hovering between life and death, while protesters used iron pipes and rope to remove the bus walls.

   What caused such terrible clash, and what is making the conflict worse? The armed conflict was caused by the bus wall, representing excessively employed government power. The problem got worse due to the government’s management after the event, separating public into two sides arguing about who did wrong, instead of finding a solution for the conflict.

   In terms of the cause of the violence, protesters argue that the bus wall and water cannon provoked them to move the buses by using violence. On the other hand, police side claims that they had to block the way because the protesters could possibly have turned violent.

   However, this is not true. This conflict was preventable if there had been no order to make blockades because protesters know that they will lose supports from the public when they use violence. The bus wall created a distorted image of the protest by making the public think the protest like a sports game, as if the police are the defenders and the protesters are the offenders.  The bus walls created unnecessary conflict and zero sum game between protesters and front line police officers.

   What is more serious is that the government and the mass media is focusing on who did right or wrong. This, in fact, caused the public to lose their attention to a more significant aspect of the event, which is “the fundamental causes of the rally”

   On November 16th, an obnoxious comment was made by Saenuri Party Congressperson Lee Wan-yung, regarding the “11.14 Public Rally.” Lee said, “In the U.S., police beat up protesters if they go across the police line. It is often rather recognized as a legit use of government authority.” In addition, he claimed, “About eight to nine events out of ten, regarding police shooting citizens, are considered to be legitimate.”

   This kind of provocative comment is the main cause of the separations among public. Such comments and the way mass media delivers the message by focusing on finding which side is wrong serve as one of the factors that divide people into two conflicting sides, police-supportive side and protester-supportive one. This eventually blurs out the main point people should really remember, “Why this very conflict happened in the first place.”

   The frame is already set up as if it was a sport: team police vs. team protesters. Even though he made an ignorant comment regarding this issue, people who support team police will also advocate his comment. The messages from the protesters were blocked by the bus wall, and accordingly, the front line police officers got injured. If it were pretended as a game, both teams have lost, and the person who has ordered to create the bus wall would be the only one smiling at the back.

   It is now time to ask the person who has ordered the police to make bus walls. “What are you afraid of? Listen to the people.”

Yim Jae-hyuck  jae_hyuck37@hotmail.com

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