Saturday, May 5, 2012

Bersih 3.0: Third Time's A Charm

Some people have asked me during my breakfast and lunch break on that fateful day whether if the Bersih 3.0 rally was the first time I've been there. Many have admitted that it's their first since the second one in 907 gained popularity everywhere. If the first one didn't draw that much, while the second got much attention due to people being accused as villains, then the third one sparked everyone and the numbers swelled. Those who had been into the first two and had foresaw the whole thing were right all along.

Some were surprised when I answered that it's my third time. I got the tendency to believe that third time's a charm. I have also went with some of those "veterans" (those who have participated into this previously). My cousin's group whom many have told me it's the first time being among the swarm of people walking on the streets.

In the previous rally, I've done a live online coverage where a lot of people worldwide were tuning in. But this time I didn't because I thought that there are other channels and media providing the on the ground coverage. Therefore it allowed me to concentrate on doing my walkabout and photography work there.

On the night before I've done some scouting on the possible entry and exit points. Neither seems to be appealing because of the lack of parking space and as I've anticipated, entry into the Royal Selangor Club was off limits to everyone including member even though the court order provides an exception to that. At least with that there's a proper entry plan. There were three ways of entering into the city, but as agreed with other friends, there is need to pick a group and stick with it before the rally began.

Anticipating the possibility of the main LRT stations beginning to close in the later part of the morning, I started off from Masjid Jamek walking along Jalan Tun Perak to see the crowd level. It's still more or less the same as was the night before except that the traffic was cleared off to allow people to gather at that point. Since there's a group of people whom I am to about to meet in Petaling Street, I took the back route heading to Petaling Street, via Central Market.

I could count about one to two policemen barricade through Central Market on the way to Petaling Street. There, there were a lot of people, yellow and green having breakfast while waiting for the time to come down to Jalan Tun Perak. Former PKA chairman Hwa Beng happened to be spotted by the author at Petaling Street as well.

Meanwhile, Central Market opened at 10 a.m. At around 11 plus, Ambiga, surrounded by some Unit Amal men had a little conference and meeting with her supporters and fans alike. Central Market was one of the meeting spots and the police doesn't seem to care much until later in the afternoon. Not much for me to move around except to check back with the other group I intended to meet at Coliseum Cafe later on.

The number of people increased a lot during my return walk to Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman / Tun Perak intersection, with more people appearing. At lunch with my cousin's group, I enquired whether most of them are first timers. I knew that my cousin was at the Lawyers' march in 2007 (the march in light of the Lingamtape video) so he can be counted as an exception to this. 

By the time lunchtime was over, cops -  about a few hundred of them - started marching from Sogo all the way to the junction. People cheering at them, thinking that they might helping out the crowd later on. At that point of time, the crowd, especially those who came from KLCC started to fill up the streets all the way up to Menara Maybank with the kick off to protest barely 30 minutes away. People around here have started to chant a lot of common phrases you can hear at any ceramahs, like "Reformasi", "Hidup Rakyat", "Hancur UMNO", "Stop Lynas" and a few more.

I knew that by the time the sit-in starts I would not be able to move in and out easily with people sitting on the road. Fortunately, I managed to bump into another group of friends (one of them is ABU's Sam Haris) and we moved out through the small lane back to Lebuh Pasar and Bar Council.

At the intersection of the Jalan Silang / Tun Tan Siew Sin, people from Central Market / Petaling Street have started to converged to the intersection of Jalan Tun H.S Lee / Tun Perak. At this time. The numbers have started to swell at that spot already. However, we were not aware that the protest kicked off earlier than the planned 2.00 pm start point. Back at the Bar Council building, the FRUs have already formed a line.

There has been some instruction to head down to Menara Maybank in Jalan Tun Perak. Some when down there, while some remained before the barricade of barb wires there. Away, we could hear some shots of tear gas being fired at Tun Perak. There was a FRU truck that was siphoning the river water to fill up their water tanks. Minutes before the police dispersing of protesters, the barricade in front was removed. Many thought that they were allowed to move further in but the FRUs have moved several yards back. People there were cautious. And at 3.26 pm, the FRUs have started their crowd dispersal ways. Tear gas grenades and the water cannon started raining onto the weary public.

The crowd at Lebuh Pasar started running helter-skelter. Some ran back towards Masjid Jamek, some retreated to Central Market / Petaling Street. The effects from the tear gas had my tears a little teary, blurred vision and pretty dizzy that I could not concentrate well on walking except keeping in mind to get out of war zone before the cops swarm in like possessed demons and beasts. At that end, I could not stop and take more pictures.

RapidKL had a share of the blame for not opening exit points for people to leave the city. As what the findings from the observers say, the cops are more or less intending on boxing the participants with no exits up or down. This was the same case as happened at the Tung Shin hospital portion during the the Bersih 2.0 rally.  If the exit stations of Dang Wangi and Pasar Seni were open and had they ignore the cops demand to shut down the station, people could have disperse better. I had to retreat back to Petaling Street, cutting through the lanes to reach back to the old railway station to leave.

I knew the risks before coming. But in those risks, there's the fun. But the point of contention and anger is how those cops act like gangsters and another thing was how our DBKL people are behaving like schoolchildren, unwilling to share a piece of a toy for others. I thought the iconic field was for everybody, but Pak Samad was right on statement: it should been branded as Dataran Tak Merdeka. I knew there were a lot of naysayers who talk trash of the rally including the last one. Were I to bet with them, they would have loss big and ridiculed for lack of substance.

Full photo album here.

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