Bersih 3.0 Experience

I actually wasn’t planning on going to Bersih 3.0 yesterday. It was a very late decision made after realising I would be a horrendously big hypocrite for talking about the need for clean and fair elections without actually going for such a rally. Plus, unlike last year, I had no family obligations planned for today.

My father gave me his full support and helped me hunt down the salt packets we have extras at home to take to the rally. He told me he would be there later cause he needed to pick mom up from work first. So I packed a bag filled with salt, water and a notebook and pen (just in case) and drove down to the LRT station.

I met my uncle on the way there, which was a surprise because I didn’t think he was a registered voter but the more the merrier, right? :D We split up while he went to get a ticket and I went to grab some buns and water for breakfast.

On the train platform, there weren’t as many people in yellow as I thought there might be, but once the train arrived and as we travelled towards Central Market, I saw more yellow shirts come on board. There was a nervous energy in the air. There was one guy who asked me what was the fuss about, and I told him one word, “Bersih.” We then proceeded to chat a bit. He told me he couldn’t attend the current rally, but he had attended the first and the second, and then said something along the lines of “We must stand up for our rights.”

While we were on the train, we passed by overhead some of the roads that led to KL. There were cheers in the train because we also saw people on foot making their ways from Brickfields to KL (I missed the opportunity to snap a pic as I was too slow in taking the cam out), many wearing the Bersih t-shirt.

I left the train after that at Central Market to meet with some friends. While leaving the station, I noticed that the station crew and a lone policeman was helping direct traffic; one side of the stairs was cordoned off for those coming up the platform, and the other for those leaving the platform. It worked well. Then at the station, I passed by this shop that said “Special Offer, RM5” for… yellow t-shirts. Well, I bought it of course.

Then I went down to meet up with my friends. The first thing we did was to exchange numbers of the Legal Aid department, just in case any of us were “detained”. Once that was done we began walking through KL to get to Dataran Merdeka, where we were going to join the sit-in protest. As we went through Central Market, we saw Auntie Bersih! She was a sweet old lady who came peacefully to demand for clean and fair elections, and was among the many who got tear-gassed last year.

Then we found that our way was barred towards Dataran Merdeka. You see, there were police there, all linking hands. It wasn’t that they were not going to let us all through. It was that they were letting only a few through at a time. So we decided to stick with the main crowds for safety’s sake and instead proceeded to walk towards Masjid Jamek.

While we were walking around, we saw this cat. And well, Swing being the cat lover she is…

Swing's hand wrapped in a bandana at the wrist patting the orange, white and black cat

We also met a Bar Council observer on duty. You can tell they were from the Bar Council because they were the only Malaysians, I think, in full suit and tags watching people go by. This lady was kind enough to let me snap a picture of her.

Bar Council Observer

And then the noise level suddenly plummeted. Turns out, it was time for Zohor prayers, and so everyone had begun to quiet down when they heard the azan (call to prayers):

Far shot of people in Masjid Jamek

Also, traders did a roaring business. Really, one of the complaints raised by BN last year about Bersih was that it disrupted businesses. Well, as it turns out…

Drink sellers do a roaring business

Then we climbed a fire escape. And discovered that for some reason, the police often said they didn’t have enough manpower to fight crime (And catch the acid splasher) but yet:

A lot of police on the bridge

I count at least 100 cops on that bridge. Shortly after that we went closer and I heard people singing “Bersih, Bersih, Bersih!” to the tune of “Ole, Ole, Ole” which turned out to be something Asohan and his friends did.

So then we walked some more, and ended up joining this insane crowd for some reason:

Large crowd is large

So we split off and went back to Agro Bank. The boys decided to head up to the front lines to get photos, while Swing wanted to check out the ramp leading to Central Market off to the side for a better view. I went with her while we told the boys we would come back in a short while. So, a group of 9 split into 3. 4 went to take photos, 3 stayed back and Swing and me went off. After a while we realised the spot Swing had suggested was pretty good, and so I quickly went back to the group to tell them but I couldn’t find them. Then I heard the bell and ran back to Swing. Cause this happened:

Water cannon everywhere

Yes, people were more preoccupied with getting shots of the water cannon then running.

Can you see the many cameras taking photos?

Then we turned and started walking fast. Because the teargas was coming.

People moving fast on a small ramp

I thought we would be able to outrun the teargas but as it turned out the wind wasn’t in our favour. All of a sudden the teargas hit. I couldn’t breathe. I heard Swing telling me to dampen my cloth with water, and so I did. But it just got worse. People were vomiting and I did so partially too, mainly to get the water out of my throat. Then we reached a landing of sorts and both of us took some salt.

It kicked in and within seconds we both felt better. Then we went down by a side staircase. At this point we saw the FRU beginning to move in, and so we moved away towards the Pasar Seni LRT. My dad messaged me at this time (he was at the other side where they got teargassed) telling me to go home cause they were teargassing people. We went looking for the boys and found them at Central Market after Ezel called us to let them know.

At this point it would have been a good idea to disperse, but a Bersih medical team came up to us to ask us how to go to Masjid Jamek (they heard there were injured people there) and so we all went off to send them there.

Well, not all of us. Me, Swing, Kelvin and Nerv stayed while the others went. Exo was looking for his glasses, which had fallen off while they were running. They had borne the brunt of the teargas; at one point, according to Exo, the canister landed both in front and behind them.

So while we were waiting for them, we saw the FRU standing peacefully. It didn’t seem like they were going to attack us, so this was what we did:

We walked towards them

And then I asked politely if I could take a photo of them. They just went “meh” and so I did.

You get the feeling they didn't really want to be there

You get the feeling they didn’t really want to be there by their posture. Swing even went there to pose with them. -_-”

So after that I met up with dad and I broke up with the group early to catch a bus. We got home say to hear news of violence. :( I am a bit bitter at how things turned out (like the idiots who spoke about “Hancur BN” at what is a non-partisan rally) but also a bit hopeful, cause that spirit of spontaneity and hope? Not really something you can fabricate.

Full album here:

Bersih 3.0