On the 1st August 2009, I headed down to KL with Shar and Crankshaft, in suppor of the Anti-ISA movement. We took the LRT down to Dang Wangi at about 1.00 pm, deciding not to stop at masjid jamek, since we were unsure whether the station would remain open.
As we reached the turning near Sogo, everything looked normal. Shoppers were going about doing their daily shopping. We stood there, wondering if we’d missed the action, or whether the crowd got dispersed before we arrived. Suddenly out of the bent of the road came a massive crowd shouting slogans and marching. My heart leapt with joy! These people cared! They were just as bent on showing the government, this is our right, our voice, our will!
Onlookers stared in surprise, some of them must live under a coconut tree but the looks on their face. They had no idea what the hell was going on! The woman in front of me made a snide remark, on how we were wasting our time and had nothing better to do. I was short of giving her a lecture on our right to peaceful assembly, however at that time the police started chasing after a few of the demonstraters and people started squeezing into the sidewalk to avoid any confrontation. I had the satisfaction of seeing that woman run helter skelter with her shopping bags =P.
As the crowd moved on, we caught sight of Haris running along with the police snapping pictures. Trust him to feel completely unintimidated by those bunch of goons! As the crowd moved on, we took another turn into the alley, to see whether any other groups were joining in.
As we walked, I felt a weird stinging sensation on my face. I suddenly got the feeling when one eats too much wasabi. My eyes started watering, and my throat felt dry. The others confirmed the felt the same. Suddenly we saw a few stragglers heading towards our direction, red-faced and teary-eyed. They’d been teargassed in the next street. And we could feel the effects standing more than 500 meters away. At that point i could only imagine what it feels like to get a full dose in your face.
Soon, the group we saw initially, had joined up with another, which i guess must have come from Masjid Jamek. The numbers swelled before our eyes. From the streets of Sogo, the Unit Amal PAS heading the front, locked arms to face-off with the police. Thousands stood behind them ready to march. The police at first looked helpless, then as the FRU team took their positions, I knew, there was going to be a face off. Me, Shar and Crankshaft stood against the wall of Sogo, trying to make our way through, suddenly without warning, people started surging against us, trying to get away from the police. Shar immediately gave the instruction, ‘stand against the wall, don’t move’.
Thousands of people crammed into the walls of Sogo, seeking protection from the teargas and water-cannons which were suddenly let off without warning. Crankshaft came prepared, she brought out her towel to cover our faces, and kindly shared it with me. I felt my legs tremble, i was getting claustrophobic, i told shar, we had to move, I can’t breathe.
We inched ourselves away against the wall, and made it up to the overhead bridge. Here, we could see the police in action. Brutal, underhanded, bullying bunch of bastards. I saw a plain clothes officer in blue shouting instructions, a sick grin on his face. He was loud, crude, and certainly no professional. He was standing right below me at the bridge, I was tempted to pour some water on his head, to cool of his steam.
As we stood there, I got a good look of the people who were around us. I was proud to see, many youths of all races, many ‘non-urban’ folk, who were there for the cause. Makes me wonder, whether those we term as less aware, and less exposed, are actually more informed than us city folk. These are the people, from the sound of their accent, who come from other states such as Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu. Where are the KL people?
These good folks, came armed only with towels and salt water, which they kindly shared with everyone else. In my mind, I wondered why are Malaysians so docile? We sure take a lot of shit from the police and FRU. They come with batons and shields, tear gas and chemical-laced water. What do we bring? Towels and salt water. Can we be any more non-violent?
I couldnt help feeling a sense of satisfaction as the people heckled the police trucks as they drove by. I realised just how much I hated our government, their servants and everyone under their command. My mind shouted to me, unfair, biased, abuse of power. Where did all my hate and anger come from?
After some time, when the FRU had cleared the roads, we went near the bar council to have a break and meet up with some other ABM’ers. I saw some young lawyers standing in front of the bar council, fully clothed on a saturday afternoon in their formal wear. I wondered what they were doing. Hope I don’t parade around in my suit off work hours when I join the profession.
After the break, some of us headed over to the road where Masjid Jamek LRT is. Heard there was a group there still. As we stood there, the roads were empty, except for the FRU trucks and police. Everyone was sitting or standing around the sidewalks. We watched as the police, continuously gave orders to an empty road, to disperse. It seems it was a crime now to even stand on the roadside. Soon, the police got in action again. The FRU team now sprayed water on the sidewalks. I reckon Burger King must have gotten a full blast of the water. Hope noone was sitting up in the open air second floor, or they would have gotten a full blast of chemical laced burgers and fries.
I stood about 500 meters back from where the water landed, unfortunately not far back enough. Even from that distance my face was hit with that foul substance. I felt my eyes and nose water. My skin started to sting. Desperate to get rid of the sensation, I took dave’s advise, lit up a cigarette and blew it in my own face. Seems like smoking finally has a remedial benefit. =)
It was late, close to 6, I was tired and hungry. We finally headed home, after failing to hail a cab we took the LRT back. I was satisfied, even if failing to deliver the memorandum, at least we irked the police and showed them we have no fear of them. People may say, what we did had no effect. But I felt the effect of it. I felt the likemindedness of the people around me, and the intensity of injustice and abuse of power. I felt the solidarity of coming together, and voicing out, if nothing else.
I felt I needed to be part of this, and that is all that matters for now.