Performer Katy Perry Associated Press
hot n cold

One police force is using Katy Perry tracks to disperse protests

Philippine officials used the left-field tactic while Barack Obama was in town.

PHILIPPINE POLICE DEPLOYED Katy Perry pop songs to disperse protesters at an Asia-Pacific leaders’ summit this week - enraging some demonstrators but amusing others.

Hundreds of left-wing protesters rallied outside a venue where US President Barack Obama and other leaders of the 21-member Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group were meeting.

The rally edged towards violence when protesters tried to break through lines of police, who were carrying riot shields and wooden batons, to reach the summit venue.

Police responded by firing water cannons and scuffled with protesters who were chanting: “Junk APEC”.

Then police pulled out their secret weapon: pop princess Katy Perry on giant loudspeakers.

Perry’s hit song Roar was played at full volume, the top of a demonstration disco playlist aimed at distracting the protesters and drowning out their chants.

Philippines APEC Protest Student activists and police clash at the APEC summit Associated Press Associated Press

Dolly Parton’s Islands in the Stream, David Guetta’s Sexy Bitch and the Bee Gees’ How Deep Is Your Love were among the other songs deployed against the protesters.

To add a street bass beat, some of the police tapped their batons against their shields in time with the music.

“It’s ridiculous,” leftist member of parliament Carlos Isagani Zarate said as the protesters retreated to soul classic My Girl.

Philippines APEC Protest Associated Press Associated Press

Rude and desperate

Many other protesters also expressed anger at authorities trying to suppress their message of opposition to globalisation and free-trade policies championed by APEC.

“We just want to make our voices heard,” 64-year-old mango farmer Candelario Rusasena said. But others could not hide their amusement.

“That was a rude and desperate move,” 54-year-old rice farmer Redo Pena said as he broke into a toothless grin.

Philippines APEC Protest FIlipino presidential candidate Elly Pamatong burns a Chinese flag ahead of the summit Associated Press Associated Press

Metro Manila police spokeswoman chief inspector Kimberly Gonzales said the music was aimed at de-escalating tensions.

Filipinos in general love music and it has a calming effect for everyone. This goes well with our maximum tolerance policy during protests,” Gonzales said.

A music culture

The Philippines has a famous music culture, with karaoke one of the most popular forms of entertainment across all sectors of society.

Philippines APEC Protest Bullit Marquez Bullit Marquez

It is not uncommon for tourists to encounter taxi drivers, supermarket cashiers and airport security staff spontaneously breaking out into song. Filipino musicians are also a staple of hotel and cruise ship bands around the world.

And prisoners at the main jail in Cebu, the Philippines’ biggest city, have become an Internet sensation by posting videos on Youtube of them dancing to Michael Jackson’s Thriller.

byronfgarcia / YouTube

Police spokeswoman Gonzales said using music at protests was not an unusual tactic and there was no intent to trivialise the rally.

“We understand the seriousness of the issues. We don’t mean to insult people,” she said.

The protests occurred as Philippine President Benigno Aquino was welcoming Obama, Chinese President Xi Jinping and other leaders for the summit’s second and final day.

Philippines APEC Family Photo APEC leaders at the Manila gathering AP Photo / Susan Walsh AP Photo / Susan Walsh / Susan Walsh

The protesters said they opposed APEC’s free-trade agenda because it favoured big corporations and neglected the poor.

“Aquino should protect his people, globalisation has caused the prices of our goods to go down. We barely break even,” 47-year-old rice farmer Nida Floresca said.

We don’t even have irrigation to water our crops. Aquino should think of us first.”

© AFP 2015.

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