You might be able to guess where I was today.
Because of where I am, I don’t have the freedom of speech, therefore I am going to omit anything that is directly topical which means a lot of phrases and of course, my “opinion”. If you read up on the news, you’ll understand that in the two countries/states involved in this issue, all social media has been completely censored. I’ve seen it happen right before my very eyes and, being a foreigner, I’m not about to ask for trouble. So, anyway, here’s my little fly on the wall take on what I saw today. Maybe when I return home, I’ll rewrite this.
I’d been there a couple of weeks ago, just after things started getting violent but I did my best to avoid being in the area as I was terrified that I might accidentally get mixed up in the events, with no way to ask for help or explain myself. We went back today, purely for a leisurely visit. But, curiosity got the better of me and I decided to check out what was going on. At all the intersections on this main road, there were barricades with hundreds of people crowded around them. In the centre, stood lines of policemen facing the crowds. Trying to cross through, I noticed a pattern of middle-aged/elderly people starting arguments with others and then people would crowd around them in a circle. Whoever had a point to make (I didn’t understand anything they were saying) was yelling with a lot of fury. Then someone in the circle would cheer and clap their hands, usually a younger person. Then the crowd would try to keep it moving and the little debate would end and everyone would swarm somewhere else.
There were people camped out with tents on the main street. They just looked tired or bored, like they were waiting for something. Someone would have a tarpaulin shelter pitched up and there would be dozens and dozens of cardboard boxes, filled with supplies. There would be food and drinks and a lot of umbrellas. There were chairs everywhere and mats to rest on. People even had places for their dogs to stay. On top of the little entrance to the MTR (that’s the train/subway), there would be about ten men perched on the roof, camped with full camera and recording equipment.
Walking down the main street, there is a concrete barrier to divide the lanes for cars. Since the street has been closed off, people stood on the concrete walls to get a glimpse of what was going on. I passed another crowd that had gathered around a man and a woman, standing on a platform with a loudhailer. The older man (in the fourth photo) was shouting about something into the mic while the woman held up the loudhailer so the crowd could hear. People in the crowd would clap their hands every so often. Another middle aged man in the crowd started shouting responses to the man on the platform. The woman kept saying something back to the man in the crowd and eventually, she invited him up to contribute his argument. Then the crowd started getting really excited and swelled a bit more so I decided to keep moving. If anyone, a foreigner is going to appear extra suspicious, potentially putting ideas into peoples’ heads so, I tried not to look involved or anything…not that I was, anyway.
There were posters all over the walls, drawings, artworks and umbrellas on barricades. I was walking in the middle of the road, which was quiet and unsuspecting. You could hear loud chanting from down the road, wherever it was. And then suddenly about twenty policeman started charging down the road, in my direction. People around me started fleeing everywhere in a panic, perhaps they were afraid they’d be arrested. It took a moment or two for it to click in my head that I should get the fuck out of there. My heart raced as dozens of cops started running past me. And then hundreds and hundreds of people followed after them, all running to one place down the street. They all started climbing on the concrete wall in the middle of the road to get a glimpse of whatever was going on. I think something happened outside one of the jewellery stores. I don’t know. I left after that.
I came back again in the evening and the crowd had tripled. People were yelling louder and harder, at each other and cheering on one another.
Anyway, that’s what I saw today. Probably one of the most interesting things I’ve seen in my life. If anything actually comes of this movement, I’ll be pretty proud to say “Hey, I was there!” and I got to see things from both sides of the fence (geographically/politically) at the time. I can’t get involved or say anything but it’s certainly been an eye opener for me. It will definitely be something I’ll take back with me when I go home. It really gives you a lot of perspective on the way countries are run.