A massive protest occurred outside the court house during the trial of Thai Ha’s parishioners who firmly denied all charges of the prosecution. Thai Ha parish was attacked the third time after holding a candlelight vigil to pray for parishioners to be tried.

Marching in procession to the court house
Clashing with police
A women was pushed out by police
Sit-in protest outside the court house
Thousands of Catholics gathered at Hanoi Redemptorist Monastery at 5 o’clock local time on Monday to attend a special Mass praying for their eight brothers and sisters who would be tried in a couple of hours for what Vietnam government described as “damaging state property and disorderly conduct in public.”

After the Mass, over two thousand parishioners went in procession behind the defendants, and Redemptorists to the office of People’s Committee of O Cho Dua precinct where the trial was held. Holding palm leaves, they sang Rosary along the roads of about two kilometres to the destination.

For Vietnamese Catholics who have suffered a long history of persecution, palm leaves have a significant meaning. They hold it on Palm Sunday to celebrate the Triumphal Entry of Jesus Christ into Jerusalem. They also hold it to accompany martyrs to the execution ground, and persecuted Christians to be tried for their faith. The gesture is to express their belief that those who are persecuted for faith will enter gloriously into the Jerusalem in Heaven.

The protestors walking along the sidewalks to minimize traffic impacts were received warm applauses and cheers from people who were driving to work in a busy working day of Hanoi. Those who were having breakfast in restaurants also gave them gestures of encouragement and solidarity.

Protestors reached to the court house at 7 o’clock where they confronted with hundreds of police, armed with stun guns and trained dogs, who were trying to block access to the court house from a far distance.

Redemptorists and their faithful argued peacefully with the police that the trial was public and they had their rights to get in. However, some police started attacking them with stun guns. In the chaos, about 700 protestors could manage to escape police barriers. They ran further to the front of the court house where they organized a sit-in protest in front of foreign journalists and representatives of Western embassies.

Over two thousand protestors had to stay far away from the court house. They, too, organized a sit-in protest with banners denouncing the “disgrace injustice” and “open persecution” that they had suffered by the communist government in Vietnam.

Large numbers of security police, in uniform and in plain clothes, were on the site, surrounding the protestors and mingling in their ranks, taking photos and filming with video cameras in an obvious intimidation tactic.

Vietnam government has shown a great effort to ascertain the result of this infamous trial will be in their favor by taking extreme but carefully orchestrated measures days before its start.

First they set a limit to number of audiences expecting to participate by requiring each to be pre-approved by the People's Committee of Hanoi. Then they posted announcements at the front of the site where the proceeding would take place, warning citizens to steer clear of the site and social gathering is prohibited.

The candle light vigil being held on Saturday night for the eight defendants- two of whom have been detained indefinitely since their arrest - was viewed as such a threat for the state that hundreds of plain clothed police were deployed to Sunday morning mass at Thai Ha in order to cause disturbance as well as impose more serious threats on potential audiences at the trial.

According to the witnesses' account, they were mostly women undercover police who displayed such an obnoxious attitude and vulgar language toward the parishioners who came to celebrate Sunday mass with the intention to discourage them from coming to the site of the trial. The six defendants also received warning about how important their "co-operation (with the government) at the trail can make a different in their sentence. For this type of behavior, these intruders had been recognized easily from regular parishioners whose decorum in church was totally different.

The day before the trial, hundreds of police were deployed to Thai Ha and a large number of elite units were sent to the area of People's Committee of O Cho Dua precinct where the trial would be held on Monday. A large metal detector machine was setup in front of the office while local armed forces and police dogs trained in detection of explosives raided the area. Army vans known to be used for transporting people during riots were seen parking outside the make- shift courthouse. Numerous check points were set up for the purpose of preventing the influx of people who were so eager to come showing their solidarity with their fellow Christians being tried for the crime they were wrongly accused of.

Those were the reality of the so-called public trial for the eight defendants who were standing trial for "damaging state property" with $200 worth in damage, and "disorderly conduct" while participating in a prayer vigil in the premise rightfully theirs.