Bersih 2.0 – The firsthand experience

Bersih 2.0 logo

Remember, remember, the ninth of July.

It was going to be my first experience in a rally, protest, demonstration, or whatever you want to call it, but I knew beforehand that it wasn’t going to be a stroll in the park. It was going to be the time when I finally begin to try to make my name, 国祥, (Guo Xiang; Auspicious Country) come true. Hence the anxiety and excitement kept me from having a longer sleep before the day came.

I took off from my place at around 10.30am with my 20 year-old friend and colleague, Steve. If we were wearing anything yellow, we’d only be asking to be arrested and we knew there were going to be police waiting at every train station, hence we hid our yellow tops inside our bags and worn a black t-shirt instead.

We took the train to KL Sentral station from Asia Jaya. Our initial plan was to march with the people from there to Bersih‘s gathering point at Stadium Merdeka but amendments were made after we notice the huge amount of police in the place and at every exit. We saw police trucks outside waiting to make arrests. We didn’t know what to do and how to get to our destination. It was indeed a very tricky situation. We had to pretend to be smoking to observe what was going on at the main exit of the station. People who were walking in groups and carrying bags were arrested immediately in front of my eyes. One of the cops actually approached me to ask me what I was doing there and I calmly replied that I was just smoking. He told us to bugger off and we did. They were trying to intimidate everyone. There was practically no way of beginning our march from there. So I came up with a solution. It was the only solution available. We had to sacrifice our necessities to go under radar. We rented a locker and left our bags behind at the station. Bringing our yellow shirts was certainly out of the question. We had to take the risk of going without water, salt and cloth too.

From there, we took the train to Pasar Seni, which was the closest station to the destination. There were even more police around. As soon as we got on the street of Tun Tan Cheng Lock, we saw a few arrest trucks.

The streets were completely blocked off and therefore it was quiet and empty like a ghost town. With the annoying helicopter flying around, it reminded me of zombie movies and games.

We walked to McDonalds at Kota Raya Shopping Mall to unite with our other comrades. As soon as I got there, I was told to be careful of the people sitting beside our table. Those people were in t-shirts and seemed normal but they were wearing slacks and leather shoes. Undercover cops. So we left the restaurant and walked around Petaling Street (Chinatown). It was still pretty empty in that area. There were people standing around here and there but in small groups. Everyone pretended that they didn’t know what was going down. So did we.

After we went quite a distance on that road, we heard screams, thus we headed to Jalan Sultan. I went into the KFC restaurant there to use the toilet but it was game on before I even got out. I had absolutely no idea how it happened but the rally began on Jalan Sultan with literally thousands of protesters out of no where. Not to mention that it wasn’t even 2pm yet. My guess is that these people actually stood around in small groups, scattered, and then gradually snowballed into a thousands, uniting with the others who marched from the KTM. I had a little trouble getting out of KFC because they locked the doors. The customers inside screamed at the managers to open up and they eventually did. I managed to reunite with Steve outside but we got separated with our other friends. It didn’t really matter because we were with thousands of others. At that very moment, I felt incredibly safe, proud and motivated.

And so this was how Bersih rally kicked off on Jalan Sultan. The cops blocked off Jalan Hang Jebat and hence we marched back and forth on that street while screaming “Bersih, Bersih! Reformasi! Pilihanraya! Hancur, hancur! Hancur BN! (Clean, clean! Reformation! Election! Destroy, destroy! Destroy Barisan Nasional)”.

Bersih 2.0 rally demonstrators protestors at Jalan Sultan to Jalan Tun Perak

Eventually, we had to march out of that road to gather at Menara Maybank on Jalan Tun Perak.

It was a safe and peaceful demonstration until the police brought their fire truck and began blasting chemical water and firing tear gas grenades at us. It didn’t make sense at all because we didn’t threaten them nor did we even try to move from that area. It became chaotic. Everyone were affected by the attack, especially the effects of the tear gasses. We had to run into Puduraya to recover.

The tear gas was utterly effective. My skin and eyes were burning and I could hardly breathe. I had to squat down, cough and try to yawn to wet my eyes to recovery. Some Malays were kind enough to offer us water and salt to neutralise the effects.

We then moved on from Puduraya to Jalan Pudu. I witnessed a lot here. I saw an old Indian lady on wheelchair participating with us. I saw an idiot burning a red t-shirt to demonstrate anti-Patriot but was protested by everyone there before getting sounded by one of the rally leaders. I saw kids and old people wearing yellow. I saw different ethnics helping each other. This is the genuine 1Malaysia that we were missing. I felt “together” with everyone there. We stood our ground as one.

One young Malay fellow was almost beaten up by some of our protesters there for wearing a red t-shirt that says “Kadet Polis (Police Cadet).” Before anyone could get their fists in, Steve and I protected him from the screaming crowd until someone escorted him to safety.

The police trapped us on this street. And so we sat down and began a staring contest with their frontline.

We demonstrated while sitting on the ground but the cops started firing tear gas canisters at us without any justification whatsoever. It was chaotic once again. We were running away from the smokes and some began pushing inconsiderately. I approached a girl who was struggling at the side of the road and encouraged her to keep on moving while holding her shoulder tight. We were then offered salt again by the people around. It neutralised the effects of the tear gas instantaneously.

It began pouring heavily. We thought that even the sky was our side. The police marched towards us along with their chemical-blasting fire truck hence we had to hide out at Tung Shin Hospital. Guess what? They began blasting their water into the hospital. Not long later, they fired their tear gas canisters into the hospital compound as well. For what? Beats me. There were innocent patients, nurses and doctors there. I even bumped into a foreigner at the hospital. Can you imagine how badly this would reflect on our country? We had a short chat with the foreigner to explain what was going on. We would later encounter a couple of Caucasians walking with us to show their support as well.

The heavy rain didn’t stop, neither did we. They tried to trap everyone around the area and in the hospital but our people managed help each other to climb our the walls and sharp grills of the place. A Chinese and Indian duo assisted me across the fences of the hospital.

We attempted take the long route to our original destination but they blocked that path as well. After a long walk, we had to give up and detour to KLCC, the Petronas Twin Towers, instead.

During our long journey to KLCC walking on the open roads of KL, almost every motorcycle and car that passed by us gave a long honk while a smiling and showing their thumbs up. We cheered and took them as encouragement.

We got to KLCC safely and we were asked to sit down on the streets by some of the leaders of the rally.

I believe one of the leaders there with us was Baharuddin Ahmad, who would later pass away in action on that spot. While we were seated, they were giving speeches. We couldn’t hear anything as we were too far away from them.

Minutes after the speeches, the police began firing tear gas canisters again when we were sitting down on ground not doing anything threatening. Furthermore, a group of cops ran at us and began chasing individuals. I forced myself to remain calm and not run because I know for a fact that they have no reasons to catch me. Those who had yellow on them were caught in front of my eyes. Not just the ones with Bersih t-shirts. Even the ones with normal yellow cloth or headbands, we nabbed.

We walked to the main entrance of KLCC but it was blocked off by cops as well. This was where the interesting incident happened. A police ran to me and grabbed my right hand and put it through a black plastic cable cuff while I was only walking and texting. I was stunned. I put my hands up and did not resist the arrest. Steve, who was in front of me, rushed to me in concern right away. The cop grabbed his hand as well but he swung it off. A bunch of Malays who were passing by came to my rescue. I slipped my hand free from the cuffs while they pushed and shouted at the cop. The bunch told me to ignore him as it’s not justified arrest me. I gave the failed cop a stare of disappointment before walking away with hundreds of others. He didn’t try to nab again. His facial expression seemed to indicate that he was disgusted of himself. I could’ve been an innocent citizen who wasn’t involved in the rally. I wonder if he was just trying to pretend that he was doing his job. He didn’t lock the cable cuff after he put my hands through. He could had easily done that.

Bersih 2.0 rally ended at about 5pm after we got news that the Bersih Committee will be holding a press conference at Midas Hotel soon. The hundreds and thousands dispersed to find their way home. Steve and I were stuck at KLCC for another 2 hours due to the LRT (train) station lock-down.

I’m not sure how the government-controlled medias are going to twist the facts to manipulate the public tomorrow but they won’t be able to fool the people who are on social media. Bersih 2.0 demonstration was a success regardless because it opened the eyes and minds of all those who did not bother at all initially. It has shown the people the true colours of the government and the police. Everyone on my social media circles were talking about it. Once again, to me it was a huge success and we won.

Tens of thousands who attended Bersih to show support, to strengthen the nation’s voice and to exercise our rights as Malaysians. The heroes were the fearless ones who worn the yellow and the Bersih t-shirts at the rally and never backed out — despite some being beaten, arrested and intimated by the police. I’d like to personally thank the heroes who made this rally happen, like Dato Ambiga Sreenevasan, and honour those who led us at the rally, like Baharuddin Ahmad who was allegedly killed in action by the effects of the tear gasses. Everyone who was at this rally are heroes in my eyes.

So, those who were only complaining about the traffic, those who were busy tweeting about their love problems or Katy Perry news, those non-believers, those who didn’t give a crap at all initially, those who seemed like they care but stayed at home voicing their support, those who are 21 and above but have yet to register to vote at elections, WHAT’S YOUR VERDICT?

All we could do was to let you take a good hard look at things you’ve never bothered. Now you will have to judge all this by yourself and think. Think. Your move now.

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  1. Jessica

    Thank you for writing out this masterpiece, and thank you for being part of the rally. this rally indeed showed the true color of the govt and police, who instead of protecting the rakyat, pounded on them mercilessly with tear gas, treating them like animals. The fact that it caused the death of someone is really unbelievable. Is this how the govt shows care to the rakyat? The way everyone helped each other in the rally shows the true spirit of 1Malaysia. the pm does not deem worthy even tho he supposedly came up with this 1Msia tag.

  2. Christine Gloria

    i wish i was there. i really want to join and unite with you guys.

    lots of people misunderstood about Bersih 2.0

    i believe they will realize soon after they read yours

  3. Sheena

    Hey Tony, thank you for sharing this valuable first hand account of the experience in KL, made me with I was there with you all. I attended the rally in Melbourne. Will share your story with my friends =)

  4. Nana Eddy

    Awesome 🙂 I cannot support the rally itself, because it goes against my principle but I do support the cause. I believe in all my heart that the people (rakyat) that come together as one was fighting for the things they believed in and that is super awesome. I pray and hope that the government will finally open their eyes and wake up. The number of people in that rally is HUGE. They can't just let it slip aside and pretend it didn't happen. I pray and hope yours and everyone else in the rally's effort won't come to naught. It is the thought of rakyat, and shouldn't be taken lightly. However, I have to say, I still doubt very much the leaders of Bersih since the way they play the alternative media reeks too much with propaganda.

    Thank you for sharing such an experience 🙂

  5. Victor Tan

    Typo at last post, anyways, what I wanted to say is, kudos to you and thank you for sharing that experience! Of course the mainstream media would spin the side of stories, but then citizen journalism is the trend, so, yeah! Once again! Good job.

  6. Thulemin

    Haha, I was a foreigner and I was inside Tung Shin as well, but I don't think I'm the one you talked to. Didn't realize there were other foreigners there…

    Was he/she a tourist or knew why he/she was there? I was there for a reason, and I'm happy I was there to fight with my friends.

    Human rights have no borders. If I would fight for it in my country, it would be only hypocritical if I wasn't fighting for it elsewhere as well…

  7. azrai

    i found your blog in twitter hashtag #bersihstories. i amazed, touched and proud with what u wrote. keep it up my fellow Malaysian!

  8. Jessica

    Well done bro, I actually cried all the way reading your article – like the others, I am glad that you are safe and am very proud of you. U r our Hero!

  9. Rizal

    I am one of the non-believers that you said at the end of your article. To tell you people the truth, I HAVE NO PROBLEMS WITH YOU. I'm just an observer, I don't stand on either sides, "atas pagar" we malays say it.

    It's not like I don't love my country, it's just that I have a lot of things to think about and struggling to sort my life out, and politics is NOT one of them. I don't care who runs the country, as long as I can keep my job and live peacefully. I RESPECT YOUR BELIEFS AND PRINCIPLES BUT ITS NOT FOR ME. I'M SORRY.

    BUT there are certain things that I need to point out.

    YES there are corruptions in our government and the police force. We cannot deny that, i admit it, BUT NOT ALL police are corrupted. NOT all are aggressive and abusive like you guys claimed they are. I have a friend who is an honest cop. you have to understand the chain of command. If the officers say fire the water cannons or throw the smoke grenades, arrest those who oppose the warnings or anything, they CAN’T SAY SHIT about it. orders are orders. failed to follow, they'll get shitcanned, fired.

    If that happens, who will put food on their table? put clothes on their children? it's their job. have you people ever thought about that? my point is, don't blame the police.

    one more thing. it's the fanatics and over zealous members of your movement that made me sick. Not all of you, just some. Unfortunately, these fanatics are from my own friends, my own people. I had to remove some of them from my fb friendlist, yes, it’s that bad. Non believers like me, who DIDN’T SAY SHIT, MINDING OUR OWN BUSINESS, yet still got insulted by them. bombarded with insults, religious justifications, called a traitor, pigs, ass-kissers. I had to return fire and speak my own opinions, and by doing that, I unintentionally hurt the feelings of those peaceful BERSIH members. You see my point here? Like you said in your article, the boy who wear CADET POLIS T-shirt was almost beaten by your fellow supporters. Fanatics.
    What I’m trying to say and prove here, don’t blame the cops, not all non believers, atas pagarians like me are mindless zombies who don’t care about our country.

  10. y--square

    I support bersih, but I am tie to my work out station, hence I can't not join the rally. Even if I am in K.L I don't think I will join because I am currently taking PTPTN scholarship in an IPTA. If I was caught, I might loose both. I admire your courage, salute to you!

  11. azrai

    when somebody said that he doesnt care about who run the country a.k.a politic but at the same time just want to keep his job. our job n future is affected by current political situation. love it or hate it politic is affecting every inch of us.

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