Massive anti-gov't rally to be staged this weekend

By Shin Ji-hye
  • Published : Dec 4, 2015 - 16:35
  • Updated : Dec 4, 2015 - 16:35

An association of 118 civic groups will hold a street demonstration in central Seoul this weekend, police said Friday, following a court ruling that overturned the police ban on the rally.

It is the second rally after one in mid-November, which brought tens of thousands of demonstrators to the streets in downtown Seoul to protest the government's decision to adopt state history textbooks for secondary students and push for labor reforms. The rally turned violent as some protesters brandished metal pipes and police fired water cannons.

A 69-year-old farmer suffered a brain hemorrhage after being knocked down by a police water cannon and still is in a critical condition.

The Saturday rally to criticize police and support the farmer was originally banned by the police, but a local court on Thursday ruled that the ban was "unjust," giving the event the greenlight.

A farmers' association will also hold a cultural event at Gwanghwamun Plaza, hoping for the 69-year-old's recovery.

Civic groups have vowed multiple times to hold a peaceful rally.

Police said they would not have water cannons or barricades at the rally, but may utilize them if it turns violent, for instance, if demonstrators attempt to march toward Cheong Wa Dae, the presidential office.

"(We) must root out illegal, violent protests by certain people, which many citizens are concerned about recently, in order to establish rule of law," Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn said Friday at a commencement ceremony at the Korea National Defense University.

A survey by Gallup Korea showed that 60 percent of respondents approved an amendment banning the use of masks during rallies or protests, about double those who opposed the bill, which remained at 32 percent.

The poll also showed that 48 percent were opposed to the use of police vehicles to create barricades during street rallies, slightly above those who support the use, which was 42 percent.

A rough majority of people who voted positively to the mask bill also supported prohibiting the use of police buses during protests.

"Apart from ideology, (it seems like people) are supportive of non-violent protests in terms of demonstrators and a police reaction (that does not ignite) controversy over excessive use of force," an official from Gallup said.

The survey was conducted on 1,005 adults between Tuesday and Thursday, and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Last month, some 30 ruling Saenuri Party lawmakers, led by National Assembly Vice Speaker Jeong Kab-yoon, proposed an amendment to the law on assembly and demonstration, banning participants in violent rallies or protests from wearing masks or other apparel that hides their identity.(Yonhap)