That’s the way we roll

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There are many faces in the movement in Gangjeong. Some bring their own vehicles all the way to the gates. I met them but was not present during the previous night. This is how it was described.

 

On Jan. 8, members of the Seongdong Center for Independant Living visited Gangjeong, joining the peoples’ struggle to stop the illegal construction. They stayed all night in front of construction gates to block the construction vehicles.

A witness who watched the struggle of the disabled visitors, most of whom are women, testified that the police were embarrassed by their courageous and active protests. He also stated that the police were violent and violated their human rights. The police forcefully lifting their wheelchairs, encircled an each person, and detained them. During the process, many of the disabled women’s cries of pain and distress could be heard.
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There is something in the way he walks

It is the small things that get to me. The young man hanging, as a last desperate measure, on the front grille of the construction truck the other day. Before being torn down by the riot police and hired security men.

IMG_5696And being violently thrown, pushed around and handles inside a detention circle.

IMG_5699Before it was all over for this round and the police left.

IMG_5697But the next time I see him. He is back at the gate. Doing bows for peace.

IMG_4959And I think of other young men that I have met. In other places. Other struggles. Who have chosen another, more violent route. And I think to myself, this is quite unique.

Then I went to mass. With two disobedient priest who have paid the price for opposing the base. Father Joseph and Father Mun Jeong-hyun. Being beaten by the police. Jail. That sort of thing.

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IMG_5737I look down. I look up. Father Joseph is missing.

No he is not missing. He is walking with the bread and blood of Christ down to the people blocking the gate. Here he is coming back. Walking through the traffic. Another day, another walk.

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IMG_5741People often ask me what they can do. For peace. Against violence. Ignorance. For other people.

Against military and political forces with a moist moral surface.

The answer is simple.

Do something. Do something you are good at. Something with a heart.

Write. Sing. Inspire people. Document. Analyze. Make it personal. Deliver the Eucharist in the street.  Go sit and talk and eat oranges at the gate of a naval base i Korea. But do something.

The watch dogs of Gangjeong

IMG_5526Today there were many watch dogs by the gates of the naval base.

Unification day. And it has been a hectic day.

But first. Two concepts that are hovering over the base.

Civil Disobedience (Resistance to civil government) Henry David Thoreau argues that individuals should not permit governments to overrule or atrophy their consciences , and that they have a duty  to avoid allowing such acquiescence  to enable the government to make them the agents of injustice.

Direct Action occurs when a group of people take an action which is intended to reveal an existing problem, highlight an alternative, or demonstrate a possible solution to a social issue. This can include nonviolent and less often violent activities which target persons, groups, or property deemed offensive to the direct action participants. Examples of direct action can include strikes, workplace occupation, political violence, nonviolent resistance, sabotage, property destruction, blockades etc.

My morning started with meeting this friendly Baptist minister from Seoul.

IMG_5532The things got less friendly.

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IMG_5545The religious leader from Seoul was removed from the gate and the trucks could pass.

The police came en masse. They never seem far away and they probably aren’t either.

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And as the day went on….IMG_5540More people being lifted from in front of the gate and place inside so called detention circles.

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Then there was a big manifestation. The mayor spoke. Urging the goverment to listen to the National Assembly’s decision to halt construction for 70 days, starting from January 1st. Two supporting politicians from the democratic party were part of the demo in fron of the gate.

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There were plenty of photographs taken.IMG_5563And plenty of people in the manifestation.

IMG_5564The 100 bows for peace were made.

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IMG_5598There were many people visiting Gangjeong today. Maybe that is why the police decided to wait until the afternoon to open the gates again.

Things started to heat up. Activists gathered at the gates, the alarm went across the village. Police started lining up(first casually, then in a more tight formation) along the peace camp tents, making it difficult or impossible to leave or get to.

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It got more and more hectic as more and more activist were moved into circles where they were surrounded by police.

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And when you are inside a cicle many activist choose to just sit quietly.

IMG_5660When you are dragged from making your peace bows, your shoes often end up someplace else.

Hallo, is this the police?

An outsiders perspective on how things possibly went down this morning.

– Hallo, is this the police? I need your help.

– Yes, again.

– There are three people blocking the entrance to the gate. I know you have been here 7 times a day since 2007. Yes, that is 12 775 times but they are still here.

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I have trucks on the inside that need to get out.

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And there are trucks on the outside that need to get in.

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We need to move all the junk.

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All the chairs.

IMG_5419And we need to move the people.

IMG_5421We need to do it now.

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This happens every hour during the day. And every second hour during the night. On an average. Persistance and determination like this is hard to find.

Many of the conscripts look very young. Many look a bit scared or at least confused. They come from the mainland and are circulated every 2-3 weeks. It is doubtful they know what is going on in front of the gates.

Police covering their faces is a thing I have rarely seen. It is not legal either. You, as a representative for the state force should identify yourself.

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You are also obliged to identify yourself when you are filming. In the name of security.

Some activists decide to open up a discussion about that.

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If you film me and don’t tell me who you are, I will cover my face.

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For more than 1825 days these activists have been practicing civil disobedience in the name of peace, determined to stop the building of the base and they are in good company.

The gates of Civilian Military Complex Tour Beauty

The official name that ROK(Government of Republic of Korea) has given the naval base is intriguing – The Civilian Military Complex Tour Beauty. Complex? Yes. Beautiful? Well, maybe not so much.

For those of you who haven’t yet had the opportunity to visit Gangjeong, allow me to take you on a virtual tour.

First off, there really both is and isn’t such a thing as an ordinary day here in the peace community in Gangjeong. It is ordinary because the struggle goes on 24/7. The gates are blocked. With a hand made stove. With timber. Chairs. Flowers.

And activists.

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The police comes. The gates are unblocked. The activists are removed. Not always as fast and efficient as they would have liked. And everybody films everybody.

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There is advocacy going on. Here a reminder to the defence department that it is a 70 days’ construction stop period.

IMG_5239Activists are protesting by strolingl at a leisurely pace in front of the truck. Police trying to identify the disobedient character.

IMG_5245The treats of arrests, more often than not ” obstruction of business” is verbalized and also one of the charges that activists face in court.

Sometimes there are press conferences. Like yesterday when Kang Dong-Kyun(to the left), the mayor of Gangjeong (a persistant and active figure in the struggle against the naval base who has also spent time im prison for his involvement) talks to Jeong Bong-Ju(right), a former National Assembly man and a member of the Democratic United Party. He has been in prison for opposing the naval base.

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War resistance by Kayak

In Jeju, it is illegal to kayak near the naval base. There is a fancy wording for that but practically that is what it comes down to.

It is NOT illegal to kayak in the harbor though.

The SOS team and a single diver(wanting to assess the effects the blasting done by the naval base on the rock formation and sea life) took a watery stand against the construction of the naval base yesterday and while they did not make it very far the yellow flags rose out of the water like peaceful water lilies.

What you see in the photos is the resistance they meet from the coast guard, the diver being held in the water  by the water authorities after some pushing and kayaks being prevented from sailing.

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Sweet Mary and Joseph, is North Korea attacking?

Was rudely awakened before 7 am by a loud wailing alarm coming from the street. Sweet be-Jesus. Before I knew it, me, my camera and part of my woken self was in a car raising towards the gates of the army base. It turned out that the villagers set of the alarm when something big is happening.

The gates to the base were open and a direct (but quite)action was underway.

How many police and conscripts do you need to move three non violent activists with banners?

IMG_5111Irony does not translate well into words but as it turned out, quite a few.

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The strong light in the photo is from a passing bus next to one of the cement trucks waiting to get into the naval base.

In the end, the trucks passed(by another route) and the work continued. The mayor talked them down at first, rightly pointing out that the GA took a stand yesterday which simply stating that there has to be a new naval simulation conducted on the base and therefore the 70 day hold that was stipulated in the decision was valid from the time of signing. Therefor no work inside the base could legally be done.

Despite this, the construction inside the naval has continued all day.