Bersih 3.0 – a picture account

Bersih 3.0 was cast in stone

April 28th was a historical day of sorts both for our nation as well as for me. It has been estimated that 250,000 made it to the rally for the sit-in at Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square) as a protest for a free and fair election. It was heartening to see that people from all walks of life turned up for this historical event -  from all ages, from all races and nationalities, from the healthy to the invalids, and from the uninitiated to the hardcore protestors. And I have to admit ashamedly that this is the first time I have joined in a protest rally. When a good friend requested for medical volunteers I, without hesitation, signed on. That was a few weeks back.

Fast forward to April 28th we set out at 9:30 am anticipating road blocks toward Dataran Merdeka which was the norm for previous rallies. We encountered a couple and eventually decided to try our luck just before Dayabumi heading towards Central Market. We told the traffic police manning the block that we were doctors heading towards Tung Shin hospital. And it worked! We were soon at out allotted station at Jalan Sultan. By that time the street was already jam-packed with a sea of yellow, the colour of Bersih rallies. A good shop-owner allowed us to use his premise and even prepared a table and some chairs for the our medical team. Kudos to him!

A shot of some of our team members with the kind owner, Mr Kwong.

By the way I initially planned to bring along my Fuji X-Pro1 and the Nikon D800 for this event. I eventually decided against the D800 for its weight and the fact that I should give medical duties the priority. Most of the shots that will be shared here were mainly taken with the Samyang fish-eye with the occasional shots with the 18mm/2.0. Also let it be known that by the time I was ready for some photography my fish-eye was already imprinted with numerous fingerprints. Hence you may see mainly snapshot-quality images for this post. Anyway this post is not about good photography - it is all about Bersih 3.0.

Here then is the picture account from my collection. This picture account is by no means exhaustive as I had my duties - my priority is as a medical volunteer. Hence I had to be where I was supposed to be and not venture to hot areas.

The initial briefing.

They actually thought this group could stop the rally? They eventually left.

The crowd that was already there when we arrived.

Crowd

We needed more hands!

Many wanted some documentation of their participation.

Some good Samaritan giving away free drinks.

It started off with a carnival-like atmosphere. They didn't know what was coming later???

 

The crowd started to swell.

Crowd2

The famed Aunty Bersih - the lady who held a rose during Bersih 2.0.

The sit-in protest.

Don't make me angry.

Flight for freedom. Notice the para-glider in the background.

The authorities began to show their hands.

We had to move to follow the crowd.

To the authorities, we are Malaysians and are supposed to be on the same side.

There were more people than you think.

Moving on towards Jalan Yap Ah Loy.

Looking backwards.

We thought we were protected enough.

They came as individuals.

Or with friends.

Some came in style.

The heat had taken its toll on some. Some fainted and some used all sorts of paraphernalia to keep cool.

Some took the trouble to get a better shot.

We set up camp at this junction...named after the founder of Kuala Lumpur.

A 'passport photo' of our leader Dr Ng.

The protestors came well equipped.

The lull before the storm.

The intimidators. Do they really need the bladed wires???

To the City Mayor, this was our permit.

Waiting and in anticipation of some action later? To be honest I had already started to feel bored and I believed these people were too. If only the authorities had waited for a while I believe these people would have started to disperse. Wrong move by the authorities! You have only enhanced our hatred towards your actions thus far.

Spot the chicken who didn't turn up and never did anything.

The hovering helicopters began to be more active. I started to have an uncomfortable feeling that something was about to begin.

And true enough, minutes later the first salvo of tear gas was released upon the protestors. This shot showed the protestors' reaction to what sounded like gunshots.

At that time our team were already separated. Dr John and I was on our own. Eventhough we were at a significant distance from the gas canisters we almost instantly felt the stinging effects. We immediately treated ourselves with saline eyedrops and saline water to wash our face. But the irritation we felt on our airways from the gas inhalation was too much for us to bear. Each time we tried to scout for injured protestors we felt the full force of this tear gas upon us. We had no choice but to walk away from the area. Only when we reached around Kotaraya did this effect began to subside.

Protestors feeling the effects of the tear gas.

By this time communication was down - we couldn't contact our leader. We eventually spotted him. He told us that a lady was hit by a gas canister on the head and was bleeding profusely. She had to be carried away from the dreaded tear gas environment. The continuous salvos of tear gas didn't help. We immediately sprung into action. Dr John took out the first aid kit while I applied continuous pressure on the wound each time reminding the unfortunately lady that all would be fine. I soon had a pressure bandage applied. Meanwhile a good Samaritan agreed to drive her to the nearby Tung Shin hospital to have the wound attended to after we failed to contact the ambulances on standby. Perhaps they were already too occupied with cases that had to be sent to hospitals. Dr Ganesh, another member of the team, accompanied this lady to the hospital. Thank you Dr Ganesh and a big thank you to the good Samaritan.

The team soon regrouped each sharing their experiences during and immediately after the first salvo of tear gas was released upon us.

Questions were asked. Why did the authorities start to attack the peaceful assembly? Why did they continue to release the tear gas even beyond the Dataran Merdeka perimeter? Wasn't we told by the police that it was alright to assemble in those areas away from the Dataran? I don't know the answers. What I know for sure is that come Bersih 4.0 (I hope that we will not need that) I will be there. This time I will be better prepared - I WILL BE THERE WITH A PROPER FACE MASK!

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