Curiosity, mixed with a little bravado, got the better part of me yesterday and I ventured down to Merdeka Square to get a sense of what was happening at the Bersih 3.0 rally and the cry for democratic process and cleaner elections. I now know for myself the sting of tear gas and just why it is so effective in driving back a crowd. I wish that these people had been allowed to sit peacefully in Merdeka Square. But they certainly get more political mileage out of being denied access. Photographs of violence and pain and an overzealous police force certainly make the headlines and grab more international attention.
It’s Malaysia and it’s moderate here, even in its extremes. The crowd was friendly and supportive of each other, even the police force assigned to the front line were non-threatening. They were tear-gassed with the rest of us! Malaysians want a voice and to know that their views are heard, that there is room for differences in this false “Satu Malaysia” world in which they must exist. It is such a shame that they are not allowed peaceful assembly in the heart of their own city. I believe that one day it will happen. And then the protesters must hold up their end of the bargain and remain respectful and peaceful.
It was a sad day for Malaysia. Here are a few images of what it looked like through my lens. I’ve posted more photos in a gallery that you can get to from the menu bar or by following this rather lengthy link: http://portfolio.cheryljhoffmann.com/gallery/Bersih-Rally-April-28-2012-Kuala-Lumpur/G0000aRU_ipmehuw/C0000Ia36WrEiv1c
Water canons first as the protesters broke through the barrier around Merdeka Square.
Followed by tear gas fired directly into the crowd.
Anyone up close was poisoned and this stuff really hurts.
I certainly don’t like to make light of the events of Bersih 3.0 but it is Malaysia after all – and so, we must “makan-makan” with our politics. This shot was taken only a few blocks from Merdeka Square after the most of the crowd had dispersed.