An account of the October 13th protest demonstration at the Florida Splendid China theme park

Just as they had on 13 occasions earlier, protesters gathered at the main gate to the Florida Splendid China theme park on October 13th, 1996 after marching down Formosa Gardens Boulevard in a happy and joyous manner, openly displaying protest signs, banners and the national flags of Tibet and the United States of America. However, this protest demonstration was history making in that Americans were protesting on the anniversary of the Communist takeover of Eastern Turkestan (Xinjiang). On hand were two Uighurs who had recently escaped from Eastern Turkestan, both coming to the US to obtain political asylum from a corrupt and murderous government only months before. In addition to the signs and banners which read "Free Tibet", "Democracy Now", and "Long Life Dalai Lama" were signs that read "Chinese Release Prisoners in Eastern Turkestan", "China Stop Nuclear Testing", "China Out of Eastern Turkestan", "Free Eastern Turkestan" as well as the flag of the Eastern Turkestan Republic.
The EMT vehicle was conspicuously absent when we arrived (had they not received our letter to announce the protest ?), but after a short while we were joined by a security guard who watched us from the park property instead of across the street. For the first hour and a half (until the press left the first time) our protest continued smoothly with a count of 46 people having been counted as leaving the area after reading our brochure. The brochure was handed to passing cars which stopped and requested it, the protesters did not stop vehicles or block traffic, but simply handed flyers to those that stopped for it.
The press conference went well with statements taken from our two Uighur friends and translated by a member of Citizens Against Communist Chinese Propaganda. We learned that Florida Splendid China (FSC) is known and disliked in Eastern Turkestan for it's inaccurate portrayal of the Uighur, Mongolian, and Tibetan people. We all had tears in our eyes when we heard that one of the kind gentlemen present had been imprisoned for ten years for doing much less than we were getting away with, and that his recent escape was just ahead of his imprisonment and possible execution for his difference of opinion with the Chinese Communist Party. He also told us that the crackdown this summer in Eastern Turkestan imprisoned 20,000 people, of which 106 were summarily executed. We were very happy that he escaped to safety in our country.
As soon as the press was out of sight (literally), deputies from the Osceola Sheriff Office (OSO) arrived and parked in the driveway at FSC, where matters took a completely different twist. The deputies ordered us to disperse or face arrest for an unlawful assembly (this was used before by park security to intimidate us, but we had our rights confirmed by the OSO and it was legal for us to remain on public property and protest.) After one of our friend from the press drove by, saw our dilemma, and returned (he was not allowed to return to his parking place in the park), the deputies told us that someone had complained that we had been blocking traffic and screaming at cars. We told him we understood his concern if we had, in fact, blocked the road, however this was not the case, we were just handing out brochures to cars that stopped (which the OSO had told us was legal in the past). The final resolution was a ticket for a suspended license (after being shown as identification), a warning to stop handing out literature and to stay out of the roadway. We also earned close constant police scrutiny for the remainder of the protest.
We trust that these problems can be averted in future protest demonstrations since we will be back again. We remain adamant that what we are doing is proper and correct and our demonstrations are an expression of our constitutional rights. Citizens Against Communist Chinese Propaganda has advocated a peaceful and legal protest against the theme park. We have written to the theme park to announce our plans for protest demonstrations in advance and to ask that they correspond with us. There have never been any acts of violence, civil disobedience or other protest activities which should be a cause of concern for either Florida Splendid China or the OSO at a CACCP protest demonstration. CACCP will not protest at the park (or elsewhere) if any activity of this nature is expected or planned. While we welcome the close scrutiny and presence of deputies from the OSO, we would also expect that next time, deputies would observe and investigate the situation before believing the exaggerated accusations of a paranoid theme park with regards to our behavior.
After the OSO deputies crossed the road and started watching us closely from the vacant lot where the EMT vehicle is usually parked, we continued our demonstration. Although we handed out no more literature or raised our voices to passing cars, there were still many vehicles that continued to turn around and leave. Whether this was due to our presence or the high-profile presence of OSC deputies during the confrontation (who partially blocked the driveway) or the group of patrol cars across the street, something caused these would-be patrons to leave, and our thanks go to them.
As with most protest demonstrations at FSC, the protesters marched around the sidewalk to have their pictures taken in back of the Potala Palace exhibit with our banners, flags and signs, only on this occasion we had two Sheriff's deputies follow us for our protection. It has become a tradition of our protest demonstrations that we have our pictures taken with the Tibetan national flag against the backdrop of the replica which has become a symbol of the Tibetan people. These pictures have been accessed on our web-site from around the world. It is a solid sign of support for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Government in Exile, and the Tibetan people's right to freedom and self-determination.
At 1230, after three and a half hours of demonstrating, the protesters cheerfully walked back to their cars.