Cherubim was there. This is a witness account.
Like any other sane protester, Pewaris and GMI alike, all of us took the LRT. It’s kind of amusing to watch a bunch of middle-aged to elderly men wearing ketayaps and white T-shirts proclaiming their affiliations and riding the same train with black and red-clad folk to pretty much the same destinations, when we were supposed to oppose each other. Along the way, I saw at least 50 blue-clad policemen and their tents, chilling at Masjid Jamek. Even around KL Sentral, I saw more policemen under a brige.
Okay, I thought. Paranoid, much?
At around 1:30pm Cherubim and her fellow protester walked to Istana Negara, but since it was too early we were blocked by a significant number of police and too small number of us. So we walked to SOGO instead. That was around 2:30pm (yes, we walked a lot) when we arrived at Pasar Minggu Jalan TAR. The usual crowd; kids, families, keropoks, air nenas, and oh, the odd FRU truck and police vehicles or two.
Make that a fully loaded water cannon vehicle, several trucks filled with FRU troops fully equipped with gear from SWAT (we girls thought it cool) and they were shooting not merely at us, but at innocent bystanders, patrons of pasar minggu and hawkerstalls alike!
I was lucky, when I was about to go onto Jalan TAR, in a bizarre Cloverfield like feel, I saw the water that was shot at the people in the main road, then I saw everyone running my way. Stunned, I stood aside and just stood beside an equally clueless tourist where we witnessed the police vehicles and policemen in a crowd of 20 or so coming in and grabbing any poor fellow wearing black, red and having anti-ISA emblems on their Ts. Mostly young Malay men tho.
After they were gone, we continued our chant and went on the main road, and heard a few shots of tear gas. I got my very first taste of the day. My eyes burned, my face burned, my nose burned, my throat burned. Some children were crying. Some families were in fear. A friend handed me some salt, which I gratefully ate to remove the sting of the gas, and washed my face thoroughly. Like many others, we covered our noses and our mouths, but those things are stubborn, and made in Arizona USA. During the last BERSIH demonstrations, I heard tell the pellets were from Israel.
When that cooled down, we peeked outside and hung out in front of SOGO, watching the police watching us there. Me & my friends amused ourselves checking out whether any of the younger policemen are cute. Heck, we wanted to take pictures, but was declined the request. Anyways, we got hungry, a little pissed that Secret Recipe (and their delicious frosty ice lemon tea) was closed, and went to this nice little cafe across the street.
We ate happily, some PKR dude apparently belanja all us citizen journalists there, we chatted with the people from Malaysiakini and others.
That’s when it really happened. I don’t recall exactly how many times the FRU cannon truck went back and forth, but I do recall that during one of the lulls we saw several people carrying effigies and picket signs “Mansuhkan ISA”. Also, they were joined slowly by people who were taking refuge, though when we heard the siren and the sight of FRU troops going in we had good sense to return inside the cafe. There were children and families inside the cafe, some of the kids were hit with the tear gasses that was repeatedly shot by the FRU. People escaped through the back door.
Around what, 4pm or 5pm or so, the FRU decided to spray the corners of the ends at Jln TAR, pretty much near the old cinema (ground zero of 13th May, according to my dad, who was a young man then), and I thought it had some ironic implications. Violence seems to like Jalan TAR. I heard the voices of many, I couldn’t determine where, but there were first screams, then outraged outcry, probably Mansuhkan ISA again. Then I heard more tear gas pellet shots.
So, anyway, I was chilling nearby the police, thinking, this was highly excessive. The policemen was nice to me and my friends, we’re technically media, but I thought to myself, I know they are following orders not necessarily in line with their personal opinion, I saw some of them hesitate before aiming and shooting. During the whole event, Pertahanan Awam knocked on shopgrills asking whether anyone was hurt, evacuating the injured, watching out for civillians with a seriously worried and slightly angered look on their faces. What I cannot and will not remove out of the equation is this excessive force and collateral damage.
Look, we all know that on Saturdays, SOGO is a family oriented go to place, as I have all my life with my own parents, we know that most likely there’d be families, not demonstraters there. Plus, in my long involvement with this kinda thing, when the police doesn’t come, after chanting for an hour we all get tired and go to the mamak stalls to chill before going home after 2 hours max. Thanks to the police and especially FRU, we have sufficient warped entertainment for 5 hours to 6 hours. Wow, talk about efficient crowd control.
Again, Cherubim argue that the authorities (we all know who runs the cops) should have let the protesters be. Make sure they don’t hurt anyone, and bonk a few belligerant heads, and things would have been fine. What’s happening now is that even shopkeepers, hawkerstall owners, etc etc are getting pissed off at the gomen. We each protect each other, blind for once to the idea of race and religion, but conscious of the idea of humanity. Otherwise apathic and apolitical folk are now getting more and more involved.
Well, more fodder for the 14th GE.
P.S = Waaaaah, so many police, meh? How come crime rate still so high?