Unlike Bersih 2.0 that I've experienced last July, the police were not intimidating at all at the beginning. We were free to wear yellow and take the LRT to where we want. After hearing rumours that some LRT stations may have been closed, my friends and I had to take the Pasar Seni stop and surprisingly, there was already a massive crowd there all around the area from Central Market to Kota Raya to Jalan Sultan. It was only like 10:30am, majority were in yellow, and no unreasonable actions taken by the police unlike the previous occasion. The people were, of course, of all ethnicity including Caucasians, and of all adult ages. From my rough estimation, I'd say probably a quarter were senior citizens.
We had our meals at McDonald's, that was overcrowded and was eventually closed up. We walked onto Jalan Sultan at around 12pm and the rally seemed to have begun. Majority joined in while some just continue standing around because the official kickoff time stated on Bersih official website for all meeting point except KLCC was 1.30pm. But we just joined in anyway. Bumped into "Auntie Bersih" Annie along the way. The numbers were pretty amazing for only one out of six sides that are headed towards Dataran Merdeka, the sit-in protest's destination. Whatever numbers the mainstream media tells you later, it's definitely a few times more. They said only 5,000 attended the previous Bersih but from what most people could see was that it was at least 20, 000.
No idea why but this rally that we followed walked all the way in, took a big round just to come back out from Jalan Tun HS Lee, and then moved toward Dataran Merdeka. It was a long and slow march in the very very hot weather. If there was cocktail, it would've felt like some big beach carnival with yellow as the theme colour. I had my mum cut off the sleeves of my t-shirt but I guess it didn't really help that much with the heat. It was quite relaxed and totally not as intense as the last time. We sang and we chanted about the cause and nothing political. There was even a large yellow beach balls being passed around in the air like a big concert.
It was right before 2pm when we reached to the location, which was the bridge at Leboh Pasar Besar road that leads to Dataran Merdeka where the police had already barricaded with barbed wires, we just sat. We tried to ask the police open up and let us in but to no avail. They were in line with shields and probably weapons, prepared to stop us from crossing no matter what. And so we just followed the rally leader's instruction and just sit down. Dato' S. Ambiga, the chairperson and organiser of Bersih, had already made it clear on the prior day that our objective was to sit around the destination and crossing over would mean that you went against the rules set by DBKL.
An ambulance came squeezing through the packed crowd with its emergency siren on, hoping to cross the bridge to get to the hospital. Before we reach here, we actually saw someone seemingly unconscious on the ground surrounded with people who were trying to help. This person may had been in that ambulance but guess what? The ambulance weren't allowed to go through the barricades either and was forced to make a three-point turn in the packed crowd of protesters. Another ambulance came later on had to make a U-turn as well.
So the riot police force's front line was far away from the barricades and our front line was just busy taking pictures. Nothing was happening. We were sitting there for almost an hour with no phone or internet coverage, without knowing what's going on around. Taking photos was the only activity besides chanting and singing. Many couldn't stand the heat and ended up walking around looking for a roof instead of staying at where we were supposed to. We had no idea what's going on at the other sides, thanks to our incompetent telecommunication providers, and our patience was put to the test. We made a move when someone started walking around telling everyone to go to Jalan Tun Perak. Just as we walked farther away from the barricades, the riot police seemed to have came in closer with their trucks. We ignored that and just moved away from that area and went towards Jalan Tun Perak while looking for a shop to get some water. Even 7-11 was closed. One of the mamaks near by was opened and we took the chance to refresh ourselves with some drinks. The queue for packets of ice was incredibly long.
And so we got to Jalan Tun Perak at around 3pm and that's where it started getting a little chaotic. Initially, tear gas canisters were fired for the front line protesters to move back. I didn't actually see any provocation. I only see protesters standing around peacefully. And then, for unknown reasons, tear gas canisters were fired over and over again by the police. A little too much, I felt. There was even one that fell right in the path that I was running. They were no strangers to me so they didn't bother me as much as the last time. Many participants were going around giving out salt and water to everyone to neutralise the effects of the tear gas. Those who passed out because of the heat or teargas had the care of the people around and the medics. Many got angry because of the excessive use of teargas and started kicking garbage bins, resulting a rubbish-filled road. But one small group of young female participants were going around cleaning up the mess.
3.50pm, the end time of the event was near, we wanted to make a last stand but was received by tear gas. Then after 4pm, we just stood far away from the barricades and just witness the demonstrators in front getting fed with more tear gas and water cannons from the police force. Determined to stick to the original agenda and disperse after the end time, we tried to look for way to head home but all the LRT stations around were closed. It's quite funny considering that the purpose of the PDRM was for us to disperse and yet the most convenient public transport stopped their service. As we walked back to Kota Raya, the wind blew the tear gas from another road to where we were. We took the public bus to get out of Kuala Lumpur. Even in the bus we still see the police firing tear gas. I pity the innocent lorry drivers with windows opened.
Now this was all that I saw and gone through at this side of the demonstration. I witnessed no violence from either side besides water bottles being thrown at police patrol vehicles, and tear gas canisters & water cannons fired to the protesters by the authorities. Participants of all races were just as caring to one another as the previous Bersih. What happened at the other locations (the rally that went from Masjid Jamek, Masjid India, Pasar Seni, Central Market, KLCC, etc) is another story for someone else to tell. I have, however, already read a lot about the terrible things that happened there and seen many pictures and videos that are circulating around Twitter and Facebook. My aftermath thoughts are shared on this entry.
The tens of thousands, including my friends and myself, took part of Bersih 3.0 because we agree that the coming general election will be the dirtiest ever, we support free and fair elections, we want genuine democracy, and we wish to exercise our rights as the citizens of Malaysia. Before Bersih 2.0, not many people I know bothered about the issues and now, to know that some of these people actually attended this time or at least cared about the cause, makes me feel extremely proud and delightful.