Monday, April 16, 2007

TVBS Protest, April 14

After the blogger conference Scott Sommers and I went for a stroll, and by chance, headed up Ba De Rd. There we saw that workers were busy unloading barbed wire, and the area was crawling with police and media. What was this?

Policeman scan the plan.

Media reps set up their equipment.

Here the police erect barbed wire against the entrance to....what? It dawned on me that we had stumbled upon the protest against TVBS by the Greens. I had been notified of it a couple of days before but I was too swamped to do much blogging last week. The Greens were protesting the fabrication of the gangster video by the Chinese-owned news station TVBS, in service of the Blues' claim that Taiwan is a mess and the implicit conclusion that only Blue rule followed by annexation to China can save it.

Scott and I plopped ourselves down in the middle of the media types. This attractive reporter, a local woman who works for the Hong Kong media outlet Phoenix TV, immediately came over to talk to us. She had a bad moment. She asked us what we thought of the protest, then countered with the "...but don't you think there is too much freedom?" Scott read her the riot act, and gave an impassioned speech on the failures of the media and its constant misrepresentation of the issues -- just a fabulous speech, I wish I had recorded it. I was awed. For some reason she didn't speak to us again after that....too bad.

Workers placing barbed wire obstacles.

Scott, highly skilled in the martial arts, poses amid the bustle.

A view through the wire.

The reporter practices her talk before going live.

Policemen, sans guns, lounge around before the big show begins.

A policeman blocks off Ba De Rd.

A driver tries to talk the policeman into letting him go through the restricted area. The incident ended with smiles all around.

Reporters wait for the protesters. The show got moving late.

They were taking no chances. The barbed wire was anchored to the pavement.

Everyone finally just settled down to staring down Ba De Rd, waiting for the protesters to arrive.

A couple of brothers showed up, a lovely collie in tow. They came and stood by me, and after a while we fell to chatting. "So many policemen!" said I. "Think it will turn violent?" They shook their heads, conessuiers adjudicating the question of a tyro. "Nowadays," explained one, "if any trouble starts, the policemen arrest them immediately." He gave a little sigh, redolent with nostalgia for the good old days when the policemen let you bash heads to your heart's content.

Buses arrived to disgorge even more policemen carrying sticks.

The policemen formed up and marched over to TVBS headquarters.....

...where they formed a line in front of the barbed wire.

Slowly, like Gasim rising out of the desert in Lawrence of Arabia, the protesters appeared.

The policemen readied themselves.

Take a look at the TV photos from TVBS on Roland Soong's ESWN, and then at the pic above. The local journalists estimated that the crowd was at 1,000 or so. I left before the minor violence depicted on ESWN broke out. Everything was quite peaceful around 3:40 when I finally got bored. The Taipei Times said that
Some 300 police officers were called in to prevent demonstrators from rushing into the station, but there were no serious conflicts reported.

The leader harangues the crowd.

It's easy to take photos that give the impression of large, throaty crowds surging toward a goal. The reality was that most of the cordoned off area was empty. 1,000 people certainly don't take up much space.

People handed out these stickers that told TVBS to "get the fuck out of Taiwan."

The crowd was composed almost entirely of people middle-aged and older.

Hmmm....I hope this an expression of attitude, not intent.

At one point someone came out to talk, but I couldn't find out who it was.

Of course, this made-for-media event wouldn't be complete with an appearance by local DPP candidates, hoping to get their faces before the media. They hung out in the background the whole time I was there.

Sounds trucks carrying candidates.

The outing ended as it began, with a trip to the metro.


Ed en Vadrouille said...

Excellent pictures Michael!

channing said...

Interesting account. It seems like any old protest against the rabid media in Taiwan, until one notices all the signs referring to the "Republic of Taiwan."

Anonymous said...

It was great luck to run in the demonstartion. Apparently Pheonix TV is very well connected with the governemnt of the PRC. As I reflected to our reporter friend who refused to produce a name card or a name, if we had told her the demonstartion was typical of the chaos and disorder of Taiwan, we'd have been all over mainland TV by the end of the day.

Anonymous said...

Hey! I'm from Singapore and I happened to be at the same site as you were and you got better pictures than me! Interesting stuff eh! Cool!

Anonymous said...

Hey! I'm from Singapore and I was at the same site as you and you got better pictures than me! Interesting stuff and indeed, the politics in Taiwan is insane.

Anonymous said...

Botakyam, are you in my pics? Am I in yours? I wanted to take a pic of myself there, but I forgot!