Monday, March 16, 2015

Lee Si-Young, "The Police Did Not Think of Them as Human Beings." Patterns. Trans. Brother Anthony and Yoo Hui-Sok. Green Integer 2014.
The police thought of them as enemies. At 5:30 a.m. on the 20th, all five lanes of Han'gang Street were closed to traffic. 1600 men from 20 squadrons of police were deployed, together with 49 men from the Seoul anti-terrorist special brigade and four water-trucks. From the start, the police did not consider the dispossessed renters as human beings. Likewise, the fifty or so protesters, who were occupying a watch-tower they had constructed using containers etc. on the roof of the 5-floor commercial building scheduled for demolition in the redevelopment of Han'gang Street's 2nd block, did not think of the police as human beings. Instead, they had stocks of firebombs, acid bombs and 60 cans of paint-thinner up on the roof as a means of defense. As soon as the police tried to storm the ground floor of the building at 6:05, they hurled firebombs. At 6:10 the water-trucks aimed powerful jets at the roof of the building. The police seemed to be thinking of the citizens, now soaked with water like drowned rats, as major criminals or terrorists. At 6:45, 13 members of the police special brigade arrived on the roof, carried in a container raised by a crane. The container struck the watchtower hard and the firebombs thrown by the squatters drove back the water cannon. At 7:10 fire first broke out in the watch-tower. At 7:20 ten additional members of the special brigade arrived on the roof. At 7:26 the police stormed the first level of the tower, the protesters retreated to the upper level, resisting fiercely, as red flames began to emerge from the interior, then after a strong explosion the entire structure was engulfed in the blaze. By this time, the roof was ankle-deep in water from the cannons, with a layer of thinner floating on its surface. Just then three or four squatters rushed out of the flames and were hanging from the railings round the roof, away from the smoke, shouting, "Help!" but nobody took any notice. Finally, they fell to the icy ground where no mattresses had been spread. The day's attack ended with six blackened corpses left lying in the tower, including one policeman, but from the start the police had not thought of the protesters as human beings and the protesters did not consider them as their policemen.