Thousands gather on eve of Bersih 3.0
UPDATED @ 11:08:03 AM 28-04-2012KUALA LUMPUR, April 28 — Thousands of demonstrators gathered in the neighbourhood of Dataran Merdeka last night in an early warning that the crowd at Bersih's third rally may match or exceed that of the previous assembly for free and fair elections held on July 9 last year.
From 8pm onwards, hundreds, many of whom were dressed in the electoral reform movement's yellow uniform, began to gather into groups on streets including Jalan Sultan in Chinatown as well as Jalan Tun Perak and Jalan Raja which lead to the historic square.
By 11pm, the group near Dataran Merdeka easily surpassed 1,000 according to numerous eye-witness reports although those at Jalan Sultan dispersed around midnight after an impromptu rendition of Negaraku, the national anthem.
Chants of "Bersih" and "Reformasi", the rallying cry of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim's PKR, rang out until the wee hours of the morning as some even managed to sneak their way into Dataran Merdeka as barriers around the iconic landmark have yet to be fully set up.
Although many had dispersed by 1am, many were still turning up after that. "Everybody wants to be closest to Dataran" when the rally starts proper, said one participant.
Bersih co-chair Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan told The Malaysian Insider early this morning "the Bersih feeling is in the air in Kuala Lumpur."
"It is a feeling of purpose and of hope. As we gather later today we will speak with one voice in claiming what is rightfully ours... democratic space, clean and fair elections and a clean environment. We will also claim back the right to shape our future," she said.
Police have said that Bersih 3.0 participants may assemble tomorrow outside of Dataran Merdeka but will face police action if they march or conduct any form of street protest.
But the coalition of 84 civil societies have insisted that the planned sit-in protest at Dataran Merdeka will proceed as planned despite a court order declaring the iconic square off-limits.
“The court order only covers Dataran. Bersih won’t break the order or the barriers...we will go as close as we can to Dataran. But we hope that the authorities will show us good faith and let us through,” Ambiga said yesterday.
Bersih leaders and participants are expected to gather at six separate locations tomorrow before moving to Dataran Merdeka — Masjid India, Masjid Negara, Dataran Gajah in Brickfields, Jalan Sultan, KLCC and Pasar Seni.
Under the Peaceful Assembly Act 2011, which came into force on Monday, assemblies in motion are prohibited but gatherings at designated areas of assembly may proceed without police permit once proper notice is given.
City police also obtained a court order yesterday under Section 98 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) banning any gathering at “Dataran Merdeka and all the land surfaces bordering Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin, Jalan Raja and Jalan Kelab except the area occupied by the Selangor Royal Club.”
A similar order last July galvanised a larger turnout in the capital city, with organisers saying nearly 50,000 gathered to walk past roadblocks and policemen who shut down the city.
The Najib administration was widely condemned for a clampdown on the demonstration in which police fired water cannons and tear gas into crowds during chaotic scenes that resulted in over 1,500 arrested, scores injured and the death of an ex-soldier.
The opposition has pledged its full support for today's rally, promising to mobilise tens of thousands of supporters to attend the event.