July 09, 2011
KUALA LUMPUR, July 9 — Tens of thousands linked arms and marched towards riot police firing water cannons near Jalan Pudu in heavy rain, an hour after a similar incident at the Maybank headquarters as the crowd took all roads and paths towards Stadium Merdeka calling for free and fair elections.
A violent scuffle broke out earlier, leaving one man bleeding from the head. Police had warned the crowd to disperse, saying it was an illegal rally but the crowd continued to march. Police are now firing tear gas at the crowd.
An hour ago, the riot police continued firing the water cannons as they retreated from the crowd at the Maybank heaquarters. The crowd later ran into the Menara Maybank carpark, with some sharing salt to nullify the effects of chemical-laced water. Riot police later ordered the crowd to disperse but thousands remain around the area. At least five men were seen kneeling in prayer at a patch of green near the headquarters of the country’s biggest lender.
Earlier reports said tear gas was fired to disperse a large group gathered near the Bar Council building on Leboh Pasar Besar.
On a live video stream of the rally online, the crowd was seen covering their faces and fleeing the scene as plumes of gas wafted towards them.
Earlier today, PAS vice presidents Datuk Mahfuz Omar and Salahuddin Ayub were picked up by police shortly after noon at the KL Sentral transport hub, before they could make their way to the rally. Deputy president Mohamad Sabu was later confirmed by police as having been arrested.
The trio were in the list of 91 individuals banned from entering Kuala Lumpur and among 540 would-be Bersih supporters arrested so far.
Police subsequently also detained PKR vice president cum Kuantan MP Fuziah Salleh, PKR deputy president Azmin Ali, and PKR supreme council member Khalid Jaafar as they attempted to join the rally.
Thousands have already taken over the streets along the narrow lanes of Kuala Lumpur and historic areas across the city centre, as the Bersih 2.0’s march for electoral reform entered into full swing.
Pockets of supporters that began gathering at various checkpoints including Petaling Street, Jalan Pudu, Pasar Seni and Brickfields are now moving towards the historic Merdeka stadium, chanting as they march.
The movement’s leader Bersih 2.0 chairman Datuk Ambiga Sreenavasan and other Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders including Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Lim Kit Siang, Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Saifuddin Nasution, Khalid Samad and R. Sivarasa are gathered KL Hilton Hotel in KL Sentral.
Light Strike Force (LSF) personnel and scores of police personnel are already surrounding the prestigious hotel, waiting for the leaders to begin their march towards the stadium.
Today, Ambiga criticised the crackdown against the rally, pointing out that they asked for clean and fair elections.
“The cause of Bersih has been taken over even before the first step. What is the necessity for this show of might over the show of right? Right will always win out,” she told a packed press conference.
“It has stirred a sense of outrage against the government who live in a timewarp, who do not realise that their strategies do not work anymore. You cannot quell our voices, you used might of the state against the rakyat… it is totally uncalled for,” added Ambiga, who was flanked by members of the Bersih 2.0 steering committee.