When Taiwanese police used powerful water cannons to evict anti-nuclear protesters on April 28 at 3 a.m., children were among the crowd.
Some protesters, who were rallying against the island's fourth nuclear power plant, had brought their young sons and daughters to the demonstration. The plant is now under security check and whether or not it would be put to operation would be decided by the result of an upcoming referendum.
Several newspaper columnists criticized those parents bringing their children to a protest scene as irrational for putting their children's lives in danger.
But protesting parents defended themselves, saying that the police should be the ones blamed and that their children also wanted to be heard:
The police officers started the eviction at 3 a.m., and many protesters stood in front of us like walls and tried to stop them. They kept yelling that there were children in the tents and they were sleeping inside. The police commander insisted on using water cannons to evict protesters without sending police officers to arrange for the children to leave the scene. When the police officers with shields and rods approached and the water tank moved forward, the protesters in the front line were very anxious. They formed a human shield and helped us to move to the sidewalk on ZhongXiao West Road. We saw that police officers razed our tents and threw them into another lane before checking whether there were people inside.
When we sat on ZhongXiao West Road, a six year-old told me, “I hope the government is with these police officers, so they can hear our voices and know what we want and what we do not want.” This is such a humble wish. He hopes the government could be there. What I want to say is that the government should not stand behind the police. Instead, the government should stand in front of the police so they can hear the words from these children.
Many of the parents who brought their children to the protest were members of the Association of Parent Participating Education in Taiwan. Shih-Che Lo, a member of this association, explained [zh] why the association provides support to parents who want to join the protests with their children:
The critics said that our association does not put ourselves in the children’s shoes, based on their imagining of how children should be. They have two assumptions: (1) children are weak (so they need to be protected), and (2) children do not have or have only limited intelligence to understand the world.
If we believe children are our future, a different understanding emerges: (1) these children are weak, but they will learn to be strong and have the strength to resist, and (2) although their intelligence is not very sufficient, they can start to learn how to think and turn thinking into a habit.
Ninjiatext, a blogger who focuses on ethical issues, also discussed [zh] the matter:
Most parents might think that it is difficult to protect their children in a clash, so they would not bring their children to a protest.
Nevertheless, this kind of intuitive ethic judgment will exclude some people [from being allowed to join the protest], e.g., the elderly and the handicapped. Shouldn't those who cannot protect themselves join the protest? Can’t those in a wheelchair and with an IV be present at the front line? This kind of reasoning might expropriate them from their basic human rights.
E Ting Ying was with some children on that early morning, and she described how the children faced the eviction:
I believe all the children there felt uneasy and scared just like the adults. After all, this is what this government and the police want us to feel.
Nevertheless, children are not as vulnerable and ignorant as the adults think.
These children grow up in an environment full of love and respect. They came to the protest because they know what happens. If they know why they are there, they would have the strength to face their fear.
Wei-Han Huang, a reporter at the protest, also described what went through his mind when he saw parents with their children:
I know, I understand, and I agree that we should not let children be exposed to potential danger. Nevertheless, have you considered that the nuclear power plants would also expose the children in Taiwan to danger?