Seventh Report from Gangjeong 11th March 2012
11a.m. Sunday, 11th and I am back in Gangjeong – it really feels like home. I had a quick change of clothes and then I was grabbed by a reporter for an interview and then told the SOS team (they are the ones that organise the boat and swimming actions of which I am a part) wants to meet me at 4p.m. But there is a press conference before that at 2 p.m. And loads of people to hug ….. so it is a good idea I had a nice rest in the police station! As there is no work being done on the site today there are no blockades – thank goodness.
The morning of Friday 9th started early as usual with the blockades being set up around 5 a.m. I showed my face, danced and sang and said a few words as usual and then set off for the 'secret' action.
Gathering together there was a sudden run for about 10 minutes (I could hardly keep up) to a portion of the fence where a banner was quickly put on the fence showing a gate to be opened. It was drawn aside and some of us broke through the fence with crow-bars and crawled through. Rather rough brutes working for Daelim construction company started kicking at us and trying to stop us get in but most of us managed to enter the 2 holes made. I was kicked in the breast but it was not bad and I soon got away and ran into the site.
We were all over the place – the construction workers did not know which way to run. The police were soon called in and we were slowly arrested. I was able to take lots of pictures of inside the site before I was caught and given 3 warnings – called 'Miranda' warnings for some reason I have not yet fathomed. I was told I was arrested for violently taking down the fence and illegally trespassing. As usual I politely refused to walk away and it took a long time for around 10 police-women to arrive and move me - I do not think they have much experience of carrying dead weights. But they were very sweet and managed eventually. It only took them about an hour to find us all and I was put in a car with one of the priests who was with me and the others put in a bus. We then spent several hours waiting while the riot police tried to force their way out of the main gate so our vehicles could get out. The villagers were blocking it.
We were taken to Seogwipo police station and interviewed. There was a very nice translator for me – a tour guide on the island – but he did not have much to do as I was refusing to answer all the questions. The police women soon found out all about me on the internet and got my passport details through the airport and asked questions about how, where, when with whom etc but I just said that for today I was 'Save Gureombi for Peace not War', I was a global citizen living in Ganjeong and that if they wanted to get hold of me they should ask the Mayor as I lived in different houses at different times. The police station has no facilities for keeping prisoners and so we were then sent off in a police bus altogether to Jeju City. It was a route I did not know and with the tour guide beside me it was an interesting ride! (I hope I am converting you all to direct action!)
Jeju City police station was a real experience. Everyone quite kind and gentle. Food reasonable. Large airy cells arranged in a semi-circle around the receptions desk with the front wall of each cell being glass so you could see everything going on. Our watches were allowed in with us too. Over the 2 days I had 2 visits – one with Sung-Hee who was able to inform people of my arrest and condition and the other with the Bishop of Jeju who wanted to personally thank me for taking part in the action. I said it was my honour. The rest of the time was spent resting and learning a little hangul and a few more words of Korean.
We were all very pleased to have taken part in this action. I think around 29 of us managed to get in and breaking the fence is considered quite a serious offence here so it was a breakthrough in many ways. The catholic community backed up by a few presbyterians were the main people involved and I am very impressed with their dedication and resolve. The Bishop told me that many bishops on the mainland were also supportive and that the naval Base would be a major discussion point in their Congress next week.
This morning around 7a.m. we were slowly released and then put in a police bus that kindly brought us back to Gangjeong. We will be informed of our court cases by mail. It will be quite a big case as it involves catholic priests and Jesuits from the 'Jesuit Resdcue Service' that I have been learning about. Oh there is so much to tell you all about but I have to go to another press interview and then the formal press conference so I only have a few more minutes left.
Most importantly, the actions over the last few days are having an increasing political impact and yesterday, Saturday, the opposition parties made a common pledge for the election that they would stop the construction going ahead and hold an investigation. It is also expected that the process the Governor of Jeju started a few days ago will result in his demanding the Navy to stop and then the Navy will counter-demand and I will not go into all the gory details but it amounts to a continuing conflict between Jeju and mainland Korea that will probably result in court cases arguing about who really had administrative power over this project. Meanwhile the actions will continue.
I have just heard that 2 veteran activists form the USA will be joining us soon, which is good as there is only another week or so before I go. I just wish I could stay for longer but we need to keep our campaigning going in the UK too ….. and it is all connected. Love and hugs to you all and please keep the protest letters going to the Korean Embassy – it all helps.
Loads of pics can be found at: http://www.jejusori.net/news/articleView.html?idxno=112090
and the group facebook is nonavalbaseonje