Sewol demonstrations have been taking place in Seoul’s Gwanghwamun Square on-and-off since the April 2014 ferry sinking, but a planned sit-in and march to the Blue House this weekend has seen a sizable rise in tensions as police put up barricades while deploying water cannons and pepper spray to contain what they call an illegal protest.
Amnesty International is calling police treatment of protestors an “insult to victims” and illegal.
Police are using buses to create a perimeter around the heart of central Seoul Saturday –a move that has worked at keeping demonstrators at bay during a third day of events commemorating the sinking. The protesters presence and the police strategy to contain them has effectively shut down this normally busy, tourist-filled part of the city.
Police have also closed down major arteries for traffic and a central subway station, bringing commerce to a halt.
As of Saturday afternoon, police had arrested 22 protestors.