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Police officer in online appeal to protesters for understanding

TAIPEI--When the 13-day long protest against a controversial service trade pact with China reached a new high Sunday with a massive sit-in in downtown Taipei, an exhausted police officer appealed to the protesters on his Facebook page, saying that the police “are not their enemies.”

Since the student-led protesters broke police lines to occupy the main chamber of the Legislature March 18, police officers from around Taiwan have been mobilized to work shifts helping maintain order.

On the evening of March 23, some of the protesters, numbering in the hundreds, expanded their front lines by storming the compound of the Executive Yuan and even intruding into the main office, resulting in thousands of police being urgently recalled to Taipei again.

They began to execute an order from the head of the National Police Agency to disperse the protesters at midnight, using truck-mounted water cannons, or by forcibly removing the protesters, who linked arms to make the removal process more difficult.

Over 100 people, including both protesters and police officers, were injured during the action, with protesters suffering more serious wounds in general and accusing police of using excessive force to crack down on the protesters.

“My colleagues have even fallen asleep on their feet immediately after getting a few minutes of break at the protest site ... we have not complained because it's our job, but please understand that we (police and protesters) are not enemies to each other, and the police should not be the target of your anger,” the message said.

One officer from Miaoli County, suffered a stroke just hours after returning home from duty in Taipei. He remains in a coma.

Another officer said in a Facebook message: “My routine day off, which is normally due after a midnight-to-dawn shift, has again gone because I have another extra mission at Ketagalan Boulevard, where the sit-in is ongoing.

Hundreds of family members of the police also staged a protest in Taipei Saturday, calling for the student-led demonstration to come to an end so that their loved ones can go home and resume normal lives.

Some voiced sympathy for the police, saying that “when an exhausted doctor suffered a stroke in the protest, tens of thousands formed a group to pray for his recovery, but this was not the case for the Miaoli police officer who is receiving treatment in a hospital intensive care unit. It's unfair ...”

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