A day after protesters from labor rights groups staged a satirical religious style demonstration outside the Executive Yuan, DPP initiated their second attempt to pass the draft amendments to the Labor Standards Act through the Social Welfare and Environmental Hygiene Committee on Monday. In a day filled with distrust inside the legislature, legislators from opposition parties, including KMT and NPP, repeatedly questioned the legality of the legislative rules of procedures set by legislator Lin Jing-yi from DPP, while several of them were forcefully removed from the podium before they were able to finish their speeches. By early afternoon, the DPP caucus passed a motion to extend the legislative session until midnight despite disapproval from opposition parties.
Outside the legislature, members of several labor rights groups and protesters began to gather in front of the legislature since 9 am in the morning. Throughout the day, the group attempted to charge into the legislature on several occasions with no success, and as the legislative session inside the building went on, more protesters joined the crowd after nightfall. Representatives from different rights groups took turns to address the crowd while protesters continued to monitor the latest development inside the legislature through a big screen. At around 8:20 pm, the organizers mobilized the crowd and directed them to march towards the main entrance of the legislature, with stacks of ghost money and banners bearing slogans criticizing the proposed amendments in hand. Slogans such as “We oppose the deterioration of the Labor Standards Act” and “DPP, please don’t rush it through” were being repeated as the crowd slowly headed towards the entrance on Zhongshan South Road. Once in position, the crowd began to frantically throw stacks of ghost money towards the legislature while continuing the chants.
After about 8 minutes, protesters suddenly turned around and staged a flash mob style occupation as they blocked the entire intersection at ZhongShan South Road and Qingdao West Road. The sudden move caught the police by surprise and saw protesters sit down along the crosswalk. Organizers then led the crowd to sing a song while police slowly closed in from all sides. Even though more police with shields were arriving at the scene, protesters continued to chant and remained in place. After about 20 minutes, police began to ask the protesters to end the occupation through a megaphone, but it seemed to have little effect on the crowd. Finally, police moved in from four sides, and sporadic physical conflicts between police and protesters began to set off. Several protesters were forcefully carried to the sidewalk by police, while the crowd tried to ask the police to back off. No major clash between protesters and police took place, and organizers continued to update protesters about the latest development inside the legislature.
At 10:15 p.m., news about DPP’s decision to pass a motion to halt discussion over the remaining draft amendments and passed them through the committee came and a group of protesters began to throw eggs and ghost money into the legislature. However, it only lasted for a minute, as police had forced protesters into the area right in front of the legislature. With the amount of police clearly outnumbering protesters, organizers announced at 10:25 p.m. that the crowd would call it a night, but they vowed to return to the legislature in a month.
“I know we are all angry about today’s result, and since the police have blocked off the entire intersection, our gathering isn’t interrupting the traffic at all,” shouted one organizer through the megaphone from the back of a pickup truck. “But those inside the legislature have ignored people’s opinions and the rules of procedures. Today, whatever that benefits them are called the rules of procedures.”
There will now be a one-month hiatus after tonight’s result, and draft amendments will return to the legislature for multi-party caucus negotiation after a month. Rights groups have planned to stage a large-scale protest on Ketagalan Boulevard on December 23rd, and called on protesters to come out and join them. It remains unclear how DPP would respond to tonight’s event. However, one thing for sure is that their decision to rush the draft amendments through the committee tonight has fueled the anger among the labor force and they should expect to pay a heavy price for it.
(Feature images and videos by William Yang)
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