Turnout for Casey protest is far less than anticipated
October 1, 2007
CAMP CASEY, South Korea — An unexpectedly small anti-U.S. military protest turned into a large shoving match Saturday afternoon but ended without serious injuries.
At least one anti-U.S. military protester briefly attacked U.S. soldiers entering Camp Casey’s main gate; however, the attackers were subdued and the soldiers were not injured, base security officials said.
Between 75 and 150 protesters attended at various times from 4 p.m. to 6:40 p.m., far below the 1,000 that had been expected last week.
Members of the pro-U.S. military Dongducheon Merchant Association observed the protesters but did not organize a formal counter protest.
About 700 South Korean riot police lined the streets and surrounded the protesters in the parking lot outside Camp Casey’s main gate.
They later roped off the sidewalk running along the base as the protesters marched toward Gate 2, where the crowd dispersed shortly after dark.
Yangju police and plainclothes officers also kept watch, while a U.S. military police quick-reaction force waited within the base gates, said Provost Marshal Lt. Col. Bill Boucher.
The protest began calmly.
Mostly young adults and a few families sat in front of a stage in the parking lot outside Camp Casey, watching musical acts and listening to speakers rail against the Status of Forces Agreement.
The SOFA allows servicemembers accused of a crime to be returned to U.S. custody while pending investigation and trial, with exceptions for murder and a few other heinous crimes.
A sign above the stage called for “the U.S. soldier to face arson charges,” according to a South Korean soldier attached to the U.S. Army.
The sign referred to Pvt. Dustin T. Roper, who was found outside a burning beauty shop near the Camp Hovey gate at 3:55 a.m. on May 19.
Roper will likely face property destruction and breaking and entering charges, but won’t face arson charges due to lack of evidence, Uijeongbu prosecutors told Stripes last week.
A convenience store camera nearby caught Roper breaking flower pots in front of the shop but did not show him setting the fire, police said.
A restriction on soldiers in Dongducheon’s Bosandong entertainment district, also known as “The Ville,” was lifted by 7:30 p.m., Boucher said.
Military police were scouting the New Town neighborhood — also off-limits to U.S. soldiers Saturday — at that time to determine its safety, he added.