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    Posted March 19, 2014 by
    Taipei, Taiwan
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Protesters occupy Taiwan legislature

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    Parliament occupation in 19th hour, President vows "trade pact will pass"

    Protesters demonstrating against the farcical 30-second committee review of the CSSTA (a follow-up agreement to the ECFA) by the ruling KMT party legislators stormed the country's Legislative Yuan (Parliament) last night at around 9:30 pm local time. The police were caught off-guard and around 30 officers and security staff were ejected from the Parliament building. The storming resulted in 5 injuries, 4 of them light, but a police officer was admitted to the ICU for chest injuries consistent with repeated shoving; the officer was last reported in stable condition.

    Around 200 (mainly student) protesters who made it inside immediately settled down for a siege, barricading themselves inside the Assembly Hall with chairs and furniture within the building, and setting up live streaming both inside and outside Parliament. The occupiers stated that they are dissatisfied with the strong-arm tactics employed by the majority KMT party in forcing the trade pact out of committee and into Parliament record (known as the "30-second committee review") and demanded that the contentious trade pact be reviewed item-by-item in the Legislature in accordance with a bipartisan agreement signed months earlier. The protesters have also removed the Legislative Yuan's sign.

    The police attempted to retake Parliament three times over the course of the evening, and in the 3rd attempt managed to remove the barricades around a side entrance to the assembly hall, dubbed "door 8" by the occupiers, but the doorway proved too narrow to allow police to remove the occupiers who linked arms and chanted slogans such as "Return ECFA, Defend Democracy" and "Police backoff, president respond." A few protesters were reportedly removed but as opposition legislators have arrived and started physically blocking the main entrance with their bodies, the police were forced to release their detainees.

    The police also tried to force occupiers out of the building by shutting off air conditioning and cutting off occupier access to the bathroom, but protesters responded by setting up temporary bathrooms using water bottles, and police switched the air conditioning back on again when occupiers began to complain of heat exhaustion and suffocation.

    The government had mobilized riot police units and reserve units, hoping to overwhelm protestors by sheer numbers, but protesters also mobilized supporters via online media such as the popular ptt.cc BBS service, and threatened to reverse-envelope the police presence. The protesters, who advocated nonviolent civil disobedience, and the police eventually reached an uneasy truce; as long as the police does not forcibly disperse the protest nor attempt to remove the occupiers, the protest will continue to remain orderly and obey police directions regarding traffic and emergency personnel. Several doctors and medical personnel have reportedly volunteered to set up an aid station inside Parliament.

    Taiwanese citizens woke up to an occupied Parliament, and media outlets scrambled to either report or spin the incident in time for the morning news. Traditional media outlets have divided predictably along party lines: pro-KMT outlets accuse the occupiers of being violent hooligans paid off by the DPP to sabotage the legitimate passage of a beneficial trade pact, and played up images of occupiers drinking beer and kissing inside Parliament; pro-DPP press outlets have characterized the protest as the valiant actions of pro-independence activists acting in disgust of a bankrupt regime.

    One protester was reportedly so overwhelmed by emotions that he sliced his wrist open to paint a heart on the wall with his blood; shocked demonstrators immediately bundled the person to emergency.

    President Ma has so far refused to respond to occupiers' demands for dialogue, but has stated in a scheduled event that "the CSSTA must be passed within this legislative session, so that our trade partners will not view us as untrustworthy and insincere trade partners."
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