Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Some Photos from the 8/30 Protest

Other Taiwan bloggers have already done a good job talking about and reporting on the anti-everything-that's-going-on-now rally last Saturday so I'll mostly just share a few pictures and make a few notes.

First of all, having been to quite a few rallies and protests - generally as a bystander although I'm not shy about discussing my own political views on Taiwan or the world in general - this one has to be the friendliest one I've ever seen.

Seriously. The 10/10 "A-bian Xia Tai" folks were so...serious. They either ignored or seemed wary of observers, and weren't quite sure what to make of foreign observers. Having attended university in Washington DC, obviously I've been to my share of protests there as well. Anti-World Bank? Check. Anti-Bush? Yep. Anti-Iraq war? You betcha. They all had similar atmospheres.

This one was different. People were outgoing and genuinely happy to see foreigners there. I suppose, it helped that I was wearing a bright green t-shirt. People shook my hand just for caring enough to show up. People took the time to tell me what they thought - some more exuberantly than others. Some, for the record, acted as though they'd chewed one too many betel nuts. The crowd was a lot older - there were kids and lots of little dogs, but the bent was definitely in favor of the senior citizen.

People smiled. I haven't been to such a smiley protest...well, ever. I also noticed that I couldn't understand most of what was going on, as it was all in Taiwanese. Not all of it...but enough that I was a bit lost. The only Chinese I heard were a few of the speakers on the main stage (and not always then) and from the many people who went out of their way to talk to me.

Water was free, and the younger set went out of their way to be courteous to the seniors who ruled the streets. Someone ran up and gave me a free keychain because "You understand how we love Taiwan!"

228 Peace Park was practically overrun with old folks, which meant it was...well, just like 228 Park on any other day.

Near the Chinese-style gate in front of the Presidential building - which I'm sorry, looks like an old-timey European train station, it really does - there was a fairly large shrine dedicated to the activists who died under the KMT's former dictatorship.

(I also learned that the "jiu" in "Ma Ying Jiu" sounds like "gou" in Taiwanese, so his name can carry the connotation of a dog in that language. Huh. The Things You Learn.)

I can't estimate the attendance, and people say that the 10/10/06 anti-Chen protest was bigger, but this one sure felt as big.

Frankly, anyone who says that the Taiwanese don't want independence really should have seen this rally. If they could draw such a big crowd in a blue-leaning city like Taipei, then obviously lots of people do not consider themselves Chinese.

Finally, someone told me today that the signs brandished were in English (and German) because the organizers hoped for coverage on CNN. I didn't see any international news coverage, though.

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