Thursday, November 24, 2011

There Are Starving Children in Korea Who'd Love to Eat the Pepper Spray You're Complaining About!

Seoul police used water cannons the other night on demonstrators who objected to the passage of the Korean-US "Free Trade Agreement." (It still hasn't been signed by President Lee, but it's hard to imagine what would stop him after he's pushed it so long.) According to the Hankyoreh, this happened in sub-freezing weather:
Participants struck by the cannons said the cold was such that the water froze on their clothing. A 27-year-old participant named Kim recounted that police even fired the jets indiscriminately at people on the sidewalk.

“It was so cold out that my clothes froze, and all the friends who came out with me to the rally caught colds,” Kim said.

A 31-year-old named Ahn said, “The cold was unbearable. I was only sprayed a little while I was in the street, but I was shivering terribly.”

Criticisms of the police’s failure to take into account the cold when using water cannons were not limited to civic and social organizations. Lawmakers with the ruling Grand National Party (GNP) also issued notably stern statements against the decision.

That is surprising, because it was the GNP that pushed the FTA through in the first place. But don't worry, it's all standard police procedure.
The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency (SMPA) Security Department chief Yun Cheol-gyu said, “The march itself was illegal, so we fired the water cannons after first broadcasting an order to disperse according to procedure, and we took direct aim after they did not.”

Yun added, “There are no standards for the use of water cannons according to weather conditions, and everything was done in line with legitimate procedure, so there is no issue.”

So, that's all right then.

Water cannons were used for "riot control" in the US during the 1960s (we got the idea from the Germans in the 1930s), and Prime Minister Cameron authorized their use against "rioters" in the UK this past August. The Italian police used them against the Occupy Rome protests in October, too. Last June in Chile (during their winter, isn't it?) students protesting against education cuts threw a molotov cocktail at a water cannon that had been used against them. I've seen talk about deploying them against peaceful protesters in the US; I figure it's only a matter of time.