Taking the school: How the day unfolded
May 6, 2006
DAECHU-RI, South Korea — The South Korean police effort to clear a school compound of protesters moved forward in early morning darkness Thursday, with some units on the scene as early as 2 a.m. By 4:30 a.m., long convoys of police buses and construction vehicles, red lights flashing, still were converging on Daechu-ri from several directions.
Authorities deployed 10,000 police to Daechu-ri, a farming village that borders Camp Humphreys in Pyeongtaek.
Protesters opposing a plan to expand Camp Humphreys onto local farmlands knew the operation was coming; South Korea’s defense ministry had announced earlier in the week that such an operation was planned and might begin as early as Thursday.
By 6:30 a.m. the several hundred protesters inside the compound saw several thousand blue-clad police moving in formation to positions some 30 yards away from the compound’s embanked, tree-lined perimeter.
As word spread quickly through the compound that the police had begun massing in the field, the resisters began dashing about the compound arming themselves with thick bamboo shafts or thinner bamboo that they could use as long pikes.
They positioned themselves among the perimeter’s trees and thick shrubbery and awaited the by-then inevitable assault.
About three hours passed. At about 9:15 a.m., the police rose to their feet and began fastening their helmet chinstraps.
Protesters set fire to some hay they’d laid out below the embankment to impede the police.
Two minutes later, shouting rhythmic, warlike chants in unison, the blue mass surged toward the smoky embankment.
Officers quickly doused the fires and turned fire hoses on nearby resisters. A stiff column of water hit one man, almost spinning him around before he fell. The line of resisters fell back. The police, still chanting, clambered up the embankment and were inside the compound; the resisters bolted for the school building.
Police surrounded the building. Protesters smashed out windows and pitched assorted objects at the officers. Some protesters stood out on the roof and threw rocks at police, some of whom threw objects back up at the protesters.
But within about 40 minutes after breaking across the perimeter and surrounding the building, the first police officers had forced a way inside.
Soon, protesters, singly or two and three at a time, began emerging from the building in police custody, some bloody and holding their heads.
About 20 minutes later the police withdrew from the building, leaving resisters still on the second floor and some on the roof.
Shortly after 1 p.m., police began laying out fire hoses in front of the building.
Fire trucks and two large yellow police vehicles mounting water cannons had pulled into the compound earlier.
At 1:15 p.m., groups of officers holding their shields overhead positioned large gray cushions along the front of the building.
About 18 minutes later they opened the glass doors that were the front entrance of the now-vacant ground floor, then hauled out broken furniture the protesters had used to block the main entrance.
Five minutes later, several long, white columns of water came shooting into the already broken second-floor windows.
Large numbers of police then rushed in and up the stairs. Once again, officers began bringing out protesters and led them to gray vans.
By 5 p.m., the building was cleared and the compound was in the hands of the authorities.