It’s ‘Live Fire! Live Fire!’ in Muxidi Battle
The sky flickers orange and black over the bridge at Muxidi as flames roll through two buses. Bullets whistle and zing. Tear gas canisters boom. “Fascists! Fascists!” chants the crowd.
The People’s Liberation Army has entered Beijing to liberate the city from the people.
Saturday evening and into Sunday, Muxidi Bridge, a gateway to the inner city, was the site of pitched battles. Local citizens sought to defend themselves from heavily armed Chinese troops instructed to quell the unrest.
Soldiers with Chinese-made AK-47 rifles fired indiscriminately into crowds of demonstrators and onlookers. Many died, one at the feet of this reporter. The local hospital laid out 21 bodies in a makeshift mortuary Sunday afternoon to commemorate the heavy loss of life.
Soldiers also were hurt. Two from a tank crew were beaten senseless by a crowd that attacked the tank with Molotov cocktails. Civilians briefly commandeered the tank before setting it ablaze. Red flags reading “Democracy” and “Freedom,” flapped from its turrets.
This is how one battle unfolded:
Saturday, 8 p.m.:
Two buses stand as barricades on the bridge. A steelworker who has joined the uprising stands nearby. Blood soaks his shirt. A bandage covers one eye.
“We moved those two buses on the bridge to block it good,” he says.
“I was in the front waiting to fight them. The troop trucks were west of the bridge, about 100 (meters) away. (They) had their lights on so we couldn’t see anything. When they hit me I didn’t know what was happening. Three guys with sticks and a rifle just moved in on me and smashed away.”
Workers and students have pushed back the first wave of incoming troops, who charged them with sticks and tear gas. Burning rugs from a nearby apartment have been chucked onto the buses. One gas tank explodes and then another.
“Live fire! Live fire!” a student shouts moments after he’s hit in the leg by a bullet. Soldiers fire into the crowd.
They are shooting low, hitting many in the legs and stomach. Blood, pooling on the pavement, splatters the bridge at Muxidi.
The night, balmy with a calm breeze, echoes with the explosion of blank shells. The blank rounds send the crowds fleeing up a nearby side street. They quickly return, rocks in hand to face the oncoming troops.
Armored personnel carriers are smashing through buses. Soldiers fire into the crowd.
“Clear the street, clear the way!” yells a medic.
Li Fengde, a 28-year-old electrical worker, has been hit in the stomach.
“Look at me and think,” he says as he lies groaning on a three-wheeled pedicab with another wounded man who is silent. “I love the student movement and democracy. This is what I get.”
The troop trucks have come. A row of 50 storm through the crumpled roadblock.
Stones still fly from the citizens, huddled now in bushes and behind walls near the bridge.
A housecleaner on the 14th floor of one building is killed by gunfire as she looks out the window. Another woman is hit by a shell as she looks out from an eighth-floor balcony.
Sunday, 5 a.m:
With a huge explosion, an electric trolley, driven by a man in a white headband, crashes into a tank as it crosses Muxidi Bridge.
“Running dogs!” the people scream as they attack fleeing soldiers.
Machine-gun fire crackles as troops react to rocks with deadly fusillades. Many fall.
A youth jumps on an abandoned tank.
“I can drive this thing!” he shouts. “I can drive anything!”
Comrades join him, placing their flags in its machine gun turrets.
Haltingly, the tank begins to move. People in the crowd emerge from their hiding places to cheer.
“Stand up and fight!” they yell. “Blood for blood, avenge the deaths.”
Under attack from soldiers, the youths withdraw. A gasoline bomb explodes.
Through the yellow flames, the outlines of hundreds more troop trucks, each carrying upwards of 50 soldiers, move steadily toward the bridge at Muxidi.