KUALA LUMPUR, April 28 — Close to 20,000 demonstrators converged within a few hundred metres of Dataran Merdeka, defying police orders not to march down the streets in the city centre to make their way to a rally for free and fair elections.
Groups of at least 3,000 each are now gathered at the Jalan Raja and Jalan Tun Perak intersection, Pasar Seni and the National Mosque, where yellow-clad DAP parliamentary leader Lim Kit Siang and PAS deputy president Mohamad Sabu have joined Bersih supporters.
Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim and his wife, Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who is PKR president, also arrived at the mosque at 12.30pm.
The PKR de facto leader tried to get past police with a small team but was turned away. He has now rejoined the group at the National Mosque.
The Himpunan Hijau group, which has swelled to well over 5,000, have also left the Australian High Commission where they protested against the Lynas Corp rare earth plant that has raised fears of radiation pollution among residents in Kuantan.
They have now joined up with others near Menara Maybank and the 7,000-strong group is waiting to head towards Dataran Merdeka.
A group of over 2,000 are also marching down Jalan Tun Sambanthan from Brickfields to join up with those at Pasar Seni, where Bersih co-chairs Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan and Datuk A. Samad Said along with other Bersih leaders are gathered.
Himpunan Hijau, the group from Brickfields and those at Jalan Raja-Tun Perak all broke through barricades of policemen, who have so far been more restrained compared to last July’s Bersih rally when riot police dispersed crowds with force.
But police are now deploying water cannon trucks and at least a dozen are stationed at Dataran Merdeka, which was made off-limits to the public ahead of today’s rally.
PAS Unit Amal volunteers are taking charge of crowd control, telling the various groups to sit and be calm as the rally is only scheduled to begin at 2pm.
Some groups have spontaneously broken into song, with the popular choice being Negaraku, the national anthem.
Police are stationed across the city, blocking the main arteries into the city centre. Extensive police presence is observable at all six Bersih-designated meeting points of Masjid India, Masjid Negara, Dataran Gajah in Brickfields, Jalan Sultan, KLCC and Pasar Seni, as well as Dataran Merdeka.
Earlier this morning, police said they discovered an object they suspected to be an explosive device at the Dayabumi complex, which is just a stone’s throw away fromt he historic square.
But their bomb detector squad later said that the objects, up to eight of which were found, were not explosives but car spare parts.
City Hall enforcers have put Dataran Merdeka under a 48-hour lockdown beginning yesterday morning, while police also secured a court order barring the use of the square and its bordering streets by Bersih effective from yesterday until May 1.