Sunday, May 17, 2009

5/17 protest a roaring success

Just got done marching in the big protest today, May 17, 2009, in Taipei. It was an amazing march, not quite as energetic as some of the others I've been in, but much, much larger. It dwarfed the march last August 30th, and my section was the biggest crowd I have ever been in (I have been to many packed home games at the U of Michigan and at the old Cleveland Stadium). I discussed the size of the march with individuals throughout my part (I walked the route from Wanhua to the Memorial Hall With Two Names) as well as with expats on other parts of it. Most of the people I spoke with thought there were over 100,000 in my section alone, as did I, although I heard figures as low as 60,000. The other routes were similarly large. I think I good conservative estimate for this march is about 400,000, with 500,000 a reasonable figure. The 600,000 claimed by the DPP is undoubtedly high but at least it is not insanely high like their 300,000 estimate for the August 30, 2008 march. The police and KMT claims of 100,000 should not be taken seriously by any rational listener. Hilariously, Mayor Hau of Taipei at first even claimed that each route had only "10,000+"....

I met up with friends at the Wanhua Train Station.

Amazing faces in the crowd. It was mostly middle aged and up, with few people in their teens and twenties. One thing everyone noticed was how many people we talked to said that this was their first protest.

Amazing faces in the crowd.

The crowd quickly filled the area.

Plenty of creative signs and flags this time.

My friend Drew and his lovely wife and sister in law were there.

Is this humane?

Several times I attempted to get above the crowd to get a shot of it, but its enormous size defeated any attempt to capture it.

Colorful slogans and sayings everywhere.

Marchers grab a rest.

Because they were dogs, they didn't know that they couldn't park their vehicle there.

Certain marchers ham for the camera.

A family watches.

Exhorting the crowd.

Everyone had the same thought: the footbridge will collapse when we walk underneath it....

I clambered up on one of the trucks.

A portion of the crowd wandered off into the traffic.

This dapper fellow was pleased that I took his picture.

We ended the march at the Hall With Two Names.

There vendors were set up to help people elaborate their social identities through consumption of totemic consumer items....

...while outside the buses waited to take everyone home.

Updates and more pics tomorrow!

Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!


Anonymous said...

I've been there too, on route three. AFAIK the mayor upped his estimate to 40,000. That is less than half what I estimate for my route. Note: everybody is having a positive attitude, smiling and simply expressing their mind without any aggressions.
Note two: Police car rushed into the crowd injuring at least two people, one seriously and the DPP decided NOT to make this public, lest they incite the protesters.
Now imagine this accident being caused by a supporter of the DPP and the victims being police...

David from Germany

Anonymous said...

This is the fastest and best news report I can find in USA.

Thank you very much!

(I am a little bit worried that there may not be many people and am relieved after reading your report!!!)

The Haggard said...

Awesome, just awesome numbers and report. Thank you.

D. Corey said...

The dapper fellow trumps all other pictures.

Jenn said...

that dog must have been sweating his/her paws off haha.

thanks for the pictures and recap. it's great to be able to see them from the US

Jeff said...

Hey Mr. Turton,

Great job with keeping a blog and everything, especially with this march! I have been reading from this blog a few times in the past. Reason is that I often find it to be an excellent reference and expander of Taiwan events unfolding, especially useful in the time where Taiwan is slowly edging towards China. Finally something that is not pro-KMT!

I was there with my mother earlier, sat for almost 2 hours straight in front of the Presidential Palace. While I may not know that much Taiwanese (College-bound ABT), it really mesmerized me exactly the same as when I see the protests live on TV.

Again, good job, great to have a very good blog that effectively uses facts and quotes compared to other blogs that I have seen. Keep it up!

Very very heart-warming.


iroiro said...

Thank you for the photos, I'd like to be there too!

Valerio said...

I've been a avid reader of your blog, and thanks for your views and reporting.

But I'm trying to understand the main reason of the protest.

If I'm looking at the four main points (,
I can only agree with the one regarding he referendum. Otherwise I don't think the government has particularly failed on any policies.

Could you help me understand?


STOP Ma said...

Wish I was there! I looked for streaming live news of the event, but I couldn't find anything (sigh). With the hi-tech industry in Taiwan being what it is, you would think that someone there would be streaming this event to the world.

Oh well.

Fili said...

Oh wow. Now that's impressive.

Always glad to see people doing something about what they believe in.

Richard said...

Marched from the NTU starting point, and it was hard to see how many people actually gathered at the front gate of NTU because by the time it was close to 3, people already started marching. I would definitely give an estimate above 350,000 though. Was looking out for you, but there was just too many people to be able to find one person! Maybe next time.

Dixteel said...

Nice pictures, Michael. Thanks for uploading.

Thomas said...

The SCMP has created a story based on AP and AFP. They say 100,000 people marched through Taipei. They do not mention any specific numbers for the rally in Kaohsiung, however, they do say "thousands" marched there.

The article offers no conflicting estimate, meaning readers have only the "official" numbers to rely on. The story also says that the DPP was expecting half a million people to march through Taipei, which makes it sound as if the attendence was below expectations. Oddly enough, the article also says that it was the largest rally organised by the DPP, which is odd because there were higher estimates for the August rally you refer to. Of course, the "official" figures for that rally were much lower, leading me to believe the wire services are only relying on "official" figures.

The strangest thing is that the story starts by saying that "tens of thousands of people" attended. Why would the wire services say this if, in the same story, they say 100,000 people attended? Technically, 100,000 is 10 tens of thousand, but the construction "tens of thousand" usually indicates a number below a ballpark figure of 100,000.

What a crappy story!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the efficient update!
Thank you for supporting Taiwan!!

Feiren said...

Nice pictures and good fun. It was a little disappointing to see so few foreigners out this time. Or was that because we marched from Wanhua?

Anonymous said...

With a crowd that big there were plenty of foreigners, but they get drowned out in the sea of people. Remember what it took to get Carey to catch up?

Haitien said...

Thanks for the update Michael. Your coverage beats all the wire stories by a long shot. Thank god for bloggers who are actually there...

janice said...

For future reference (as I anticipate there will be numerous similar mass demonstrations in our near future), there was live streaming news coverage on a couple of sites:

FTVSanli - also via Ustream but I can't figure out the original channel address.

Not a direct live stream by the DPP or anything, but it does the trick for those of us who are overseas.

reeb said...

What Jeff said above is so true. Heartwarming to say the least. After all the shit that has gone down lately, at least we can see the huge numbers of people that are still pro-Taiwan.

Here are a few more quarky observations:

1. Today's Apple Daily framed the rally with some nice babe shots (instead of the binglang chewing, farmer hat stereotypes). There is also one funny picture of a women with the panda humping horse poster and right next to her are two dogs (KMT supporters?) humping.

2. That poster/flag with the farmer(?) having his eye gouged out with a stick was pretty strange, Likewise the old geezer selling WWII military hats.

3. It was interesting to see that they pushed the stage way back from the prez building. I think this forced 1000s of people away from viewing the stage. (Done on purpose I am sure).

4. I was looking to score some mini flags for my collection, but none to be found.

5. I noticed on the old city gate that the city is refurbishing now has as a KMT party logo painted on the side of the roof. Why the KMT needs to brand their party's emblem on public property is kind of strange. Yeah, I know, CKS rebuilt them, plus the emblem is the symbol for the military and lots of other things as well, but on the city gate? Is this necessary?

6. As usually, the setup for the bathrooms, cable TV trucks, etc. were all haphazard. After so many rallies, you think the Taipei City government would figure out how to better manage 400K+ people. I know, its a nitpick, but they should make the walkways wider plus put in dozens of more toilets.

7. As I walking home from the rally, I notice many teenagers around town with no clue about the meaning of what was going on. (Dance practicing,etc. instead). That was disappointing.

8. Just a thought, perhaps the lack of tours busses to bring up the supporters was caused by many of them being already rented out for the PRC tourists?

9. I noticed one of the DPP guys wearing a Che Guevera commie shirt. What was he thinking?

10. After looking at all the swag offered, I have an idea for a new item.... remember a few years ago the RedSox (or was it the Angels?) had the rally monkey? Perhaps in Taiwan the DPP can sell "Surrender Monkeys". I am thinking they can be made out of those cotton white utility gloves that everybody wears and maybe be painted with KMT emblem/colors??

竹板凳 said...

I saw your first friend, he was there late into the night. I didn't get to chat with him tho.

Michael Turton said...

Janice, thanks! Great observations, all!

Michael Turton said...

Valerio, please read the post entitled "THOUGHTS ON THE WHA" to understand what is going on.

Dezhong said...


"They do not mention any specific numbers for the rally in Kaohsiung, however, they do say "thousands" marched there."Today's Taipei Times gave a few numbers for Kaohsiung. According to their article organizers estimated 200.000 people attended the protests there whereas the police offered a number as low as 30.000.

I have been there and snapped a few pictures. Even though I find it very difficult to give any number at all, I think that "tens of thousands" (far below 100.000) sounds quite reasonable.

Anonymous said...

Thoughts on the police who ran over the protesters:

I find myself perplexed by the assertions the police officers are making that the victims ran out from nowhere and were hit.

The men were in their mid sixties... the idea that these two seniors darted out into traffic is laughable.

Anonymous said...

The protest was indeed a great success. The only thing I noticed that I found rather disturbing was...WHERE ARE ALL THE YOUNG PEOPLE? By and large everyone present was 35 or older. What are college students in Taiwan doing?

SY said...

For those who are interetsed, here's one live stream, still on-going as of 2:16AM May 19, 2009:

Jade said...

Like many other Taiwanese, I grew up being "educated" as Chinese. I now finally understand what a true Taiwanese I am. I'm so proud to be Taiwanese. Living in the US, I wish I could have been there too. Thank you Mr. Turton, your blogs keep me informed of my beloved mother land. I now make sure to educate my children what they really are: Taiwanese.

Taiwanjuli said...

Hi, This is Taiwanjuli, glade you are in the 517 protest, we are down to Kaoshiong, that day we got twenty hundred thousands more on street. I’m sure you know Kaoshiong, the city has warm and friendly heart like you. I love pictures you took, that nice, I wonder if you do plurk?

taiwanjuli said...

Good day Michael,

517 Protester Chang Chung-hsiung 張忠雄,in vegetative state, hospital says

The link shows Mr. Chang are now in coma, I have to said I feel very bad to heard this. You may could share with us what federal or state government might react if this happened in America, and how media and prosecutor will act on this issue?

David from Germany are right about Taiwan’s ruler Ma’s regime if the accident being caused by a supporter of the DPP and the victims being police, will totally difference in newspaper frontpages. I do not accept DPP decision and not happy with Ms. Tsai, I think DPP should make this new in public that day.

From Taiwanjuli