How police barricades became flower-cades

Posted on : 2016-11-22 15:59 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Artist’s creative vision mobilizes citizens to cover police buses blocking demonstrators’ path with flower stickers
Participants on the fourth national candlelight demonstration in central Seoul affix flower stickers to decorate a police bus barricade near Gyeongbok Palace
Participants on the fourth national candlelight demonstration in central Seoul affix flower stickers to decorate a police bus barricade near Gyeongbok Palace

Flowers of different hues decorated police buses parked on central Seoul’s Yulgok and Saijk Roads on the evening of Nov. 19, when citizens flooded the streets to demand President Park Geun-hye’s resignation. Some families busily snapped photographs standing in front of the flower-bedecked vehicles.

Artist Lee Gang-hun, 44, was the figure responsible for transforming the police buses blocking demonstrators’ route to the Blue House into a wall of flowers. His inspiration came from a visit to the Nov. 12 demonstrations, when he saw citizens placing stickers reading “Retire” and “Resign, Park Geun-hye” on a KBS broadcasting vehicle parked near Seoul’s Gyeongbok Palace Subway Station as a message to demand fair reporting. He was familiar with all-night standoffs with police in front of vehicle barricades and chants to “remove the buses,” but he had always felt helpless to do anything about them. The idea he came up with was to remove the barricades by turning them into a wall of flowers. His hope was that the curious form of resistance by himself and the public would lead to questions about the barricades’ presence - which would learn in turn to a campaign to drive the barricades away.

 Nov. 19. (by Kim Myoung-jin
Nov. 19. (by Kim Myoung-jin

The idea quickly came to fruition. In a Facebook post on Nov. 13, Lee wrote that he was planning a performance of creating stickers with images symbolizing people to stick on vehicle barricades and shields at the Gwanghwamun demonstration, rather than shouting denunciations at police. He recruited other artists to take part in the “flower wall” performance. Overnight, he had around 26 designers joining in. The art group 7 Pictures launched a crowd-funding effort. Sympathetic members of the public chipped in to cover production costs, raising a total of one million won (US$850). By the time the 29,000 stickers were made, volunteers had been recruited to distribute them.

At 3 pm on Nov. 19, a “barricades to flower-cades” booth was set up in front of Exit 6 of Gyeongbok Palace Station. Flower stickers were carried in the tiny hands of seven-year-old kids and the wrinkled palms of septuagenarians. With two to three hours, a dense wall of police buses stretching from Gwanghwamun to Naeja Junction was transformed into a wall of flowers. Some citizens worked past midnight to remove the stickers, lamenting the “hard work the conscripted policemen are doing.” Many moved in with cameras to capture the sight, with the “good-hearted citizens” singled out for media praise.

 staff photographer)
staff photographer)

“I can understand people feeling like they should take down the stickers because they don’t want to the conscripted police having to do the extra work,” said Lee. “But it’s unfortunate that people regard it as some sort of ‘violence’ to put stickers on police buses. I hope they also think about how they’re hurting other people’s rights and positions because of the pressure to participate in a demonstration in a ‘kindhearted’ way.”

Another “barricades to flower-cades” performance is scheduled for the fifth national demonstration in downtown Seoul on Nov. 26. The current plan is to pay the extra cost to print stickers on detachable paper along Post-It lines. The aim is to attract more kindhearted citizens to take part in a novel form of resistance: clearing the barricades by turning them into walls of flowers.

By Park Soo-jin, staff reporter

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