This is a quick layout of my experiences around the Seoul Police as they mass together by the thousands to block free expression.
When I arrived to the top of the City Hall Metro steps I was blocked by a sea of blue police helmets. Young kids really. Decked out in the costume primed for street warfare, in outfits that were a cross between a serious lacrosse player and Iron Man. Behind the caged face guards you could catch their expressions of “How did I get here?” Few seemed to have the anger and personal agenda of the US riot patrols (ala committingpoetry.com), as most are consigned to the job for just two years as an alternative to South Korean compulsory military service.
I have never seen so many police in one place. Their buses had encircled Seoul Plaza - the historic gathering place for prior successful anti-government rallies - no one got in or out all week except on the day of the funeral.￼ The units moved around in clumps, ever letting anyone effectively assemble.
As in America there days, the designated free speech zones were set miles away- far from the visible City Center and historic mecca for candlelight vigils and the street battles of democratizations. The police quite consciously moved each squad from corner to corner - often in step and chanting like soldiers at boot camp. They would veer around baby strollers or couple arm in arm. Until they grew tired of my filming from the island strip, we were allowed to stay in place or move about unimpeded when we could get around their dense lines.
intensely around anyone who seemed to be upset with their intimidating show of force. A step ladder was used to rise up over the crowd so that they could take photos or at times video of those in that crowd daring to speak up. The message was clear - no assembly - no speech.
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