Saturday’s protest should have been strictly about the debate over the legalization of same-sex unions. But the repeated infractions by the Alliance, and the inability of law enforcement to step in, have made it a much wider issue
I’ve already described what happened during the large protest against same-sex marriage organized on Saturday by the contradictorily named “Happiness of the Next Generation Alliance,” and will not do so again here. However, one aspect of the protest that warrants further exploration is the behavior of the Alliance’s “security” detail and the inaction of police at the scene.
It is evident that the organizers of the protest, which attracted anywhere between 100,000 and 300,000 people from mostly Christian groups, were hoping that media would focus their coverage on the main event, a flashy affair involving talks — monologues, as there was no room for dialogue — as well as dances, and songs. Based on foreign coverage, they were successful, as their reports and accompanying photos centered almost exclusively on that aspect of the event.
|Civilians block civilians|
The so-called “isolated” incidents took place early on outside the National Library, at the main site of the protest, and on Zhongshan Road near National Taiwan University Hospital. In every one of them, civilian members of the Alliance bearing a special red armband (糾察隊), chased, blocked and surrounded dozens of supporters of same-sex unions, locking arms and forming lines or circles around them to prevent their movement. In many instances, several men surrounded a single female protester.
|'Security' lines up outside the National Library|
I’ve been to several dozen protests in the past 18 months, and most of them had personnel who bore clear identification and whose responsibility it was to ensure orderly protests and prevent their members from getting into trouble with police, get hit by traffic, or littering. In other words, their sole responsibility was to contain their own people.
|A civilian is prevented access on Zhongshan Road|
Perhaps even more disturbing is the fact that as groups of Alliance “security” guards hounded, blocked, and surrounded people in a public space, dozens of police officers looked on and did absolutely nothing. Early in the protest, however, Criminal Investigation Division (CID) officers were seen filming a small gathering of supporters of same-sex unions on the steps of the National Library with their hand-held cameras. Their failure to intervene when, on dozens of occasions, a minority was denied its freedom of movement on a public road by civilians who were breaking the law was an abdication of responsibility for which the National Police Administration must be made accountable.
Only law-enforcement officers, who are accountable to government agencies and ultimately to the public, have the right — and training — to block people from accessing certain areas. Granted, there are abuses, but at least when they occur we know whom to turn to with our complaints. But no: they stood by, looked on, and allowed civilians from a religious organization to target people from a minority. Surely, if the problem was one of numbers, police at the scene could have called for backup. After all, the action was taking place in a part of town where several government agencies, including the Presidential Office, are located.
|Cop looks on, does nothing|
One overarching principle in democratic systems is that law-enforcement agencies act under clear and predictable rules of engagement. Lines are clearly drawn, and whenever those lines are crossed, transgressors know what to expect. When enforcement becomes unpredictable, instability ensues. (Interestingly, randomness is also an instrument used by law enforcement agencies in authoritarian systems to keep opponents guessing.) Selective intervention, furthermore, invites speculation about the politicization of law enforcement. Was the state siding with the Alliance? Was it discriminating against homosexuals? Probably not; but Saturday’s victims need answers.
Saturday’s protest should have been strictly about the debate over the legalization of same-sex unions. But the repeated infractions by the Alliance, and the inability of law enforcement to step in, have made it a much wider issue. (Photos by the author)