More than 1,400 people were arrested by the police in today’s Bersih 2.0 rally which was organized to push for electoral reforms in Malaysia. Police used tear gas to disperse a crowd which reached up to 50,000 according to the organizers. Bersih means “clean” in the local language.
Bersih was earlier declared illegal by the government but it was later given an approval to hold the event inside a stadium; the venue administrator subsequently refused to issue a permit for the event. The original plan of Bersih was to submit its eight demands to the government.
The Steering Committee of the Bersih 2.0 or the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections issued this statement tonight:
Bersih 2.0 is proud that in spite of all the obstacles and hindrances that we were forced to face, Malaysians of all walks of life overcame the oppressive acts of the police to come out peacefully and in incredibly large numbers to show their love for their country and for the principles of justice.
We are nonetheless horrified that several hundred people have been detained, many of them without any justification whatsoever.
Today’s gathering is not the end, it is but one more step in the long walk for clean and fair elections in Malaysia. The campaign continues, to work for electoral reform, the release of all detainees, and an end to harassment by the authorities.
The Bersih rally was the main topic in Malaysia’s social media networks, particularly Twitter and Facebook. There were many hashtags used by twitter users but #bersihstories seems to be the preferred and most popular hashtag used today to document the participation and observations of Bersih rallyists.
Below are sample tweets using the #bersihstories hashtag:
@edryfaizal: Many said that other citizens hate us. But during the rally when bystanders and taxi driver wave at us. I almost cry.
@fourfeetnineaud: When I read tweets frm Japan abt the earthquake I thought only they had that kinda humanity & solidarity. Then I read #bersihstories
@edmundlaukm: A number of us were forced to hide within the bushes near Tung Shin Hospital and climbed up steep slopes because of the gas.
@elizabethwong: We went into a chappati restaurant for salt, water & tea. Owner & his family were v kind “come in, come in, sit, sit!”
@lingswaransingh: I suggest we all make police reports tomorrow regarding the FRU firing tear gas into the Hospital. Make mass police report.
@lilunumlock: RT @khalids: #Bersih was like a teambuilding session for Malaysians
@edmundlaukm: It was most encouraging to see ppl of all races helping each other along. We were all comrades, we were all passionate.
@jhybe: Plotting route into kl w activists, kawans & aunties w facemasks in our bras. Damn worth it.
@ShazGhaF: true friends are the ones standing next to you in locked hands while facing water cannons & gas cannisters..
@mykaernate: first I thought #bersih is bad for the nation…after reading #bersihstories….now I know what it is truly about…UNITY
@evelayn: A man handed us d little salt left on his palm wen we're attacked by tear gas. He gave us all he had & didn't save 4 himself
@EvangelineHan: #bersihstories are a mix of heartbreak and triumph and unity. Beautiful.
@ninoamigo: I saw a man in clucthes,climbing the rd heading to Stadium Merdeka, heaving rain & tear gas. 30k ppl clapped in unison
@lautbulan: No one bothered to look pretty anymore during gas attacks. Everyone was puking together by the roadside. Now that's unity.
@edryfaizal: When walk through that small alley with flat. I thought peep living there gonna throw stone on us.But they clap & thumbs up.
The Bersih website offers a timeline of events that transpired today. Pictures of the rally are available on Picasaweb and Facebook. A youtube video by Malaysiakini shows how a Bersih participant was beaten by the police