The police, aided by Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) personnel, sealed off the venue – also known as Independence Square – since last night in anticipation of the arrival of tens of thousands of protesters.
The organisers have initially called on the people to gather at the square, and from there march to Istana Negara to hand over a memorandum to the King in the bid to press for electoral reforms.
Earlier reports have also indicated that opposition leaders Abdul Hadi Awang and Anwar Ibrahim would perform prayers at the nearby Masjid Negara and then marched to the square to join the crowd.
This has led to heavy police presence at both Dataran Merdeka and Masjid Negara.
Minor clashes, standoff
However, the organisers apparently hookwinked the police by telling the protesters to march from the four designated gathering points directly to Istana Negara.
At 2.35pm, a group of about 500 protesters marched from the Pasar Seni towards Dataran Merdeka in heavy downpour and they were stopped by 100 riot police at about 50 metres from the square.
The group, led by Bersih leader Tian Chua, chanted Daulat Tuanku (Long live the King), ‘we want justice’ and Allahuakbar (God is great).
Among the protesters who formed a human chain at the front included migrant labour activist, Irene Fernandez (right), who was on a wheelchair.
There were minor clashes when the protesters tried to break through the police barricades but no one was reported to be injured.
Several people were beaten in the clash as police tried to stop the group from proceeding.
Rally leaders attempted to negotiate with the policemen there but were told to either wait for a senior officer or to disperse.
The police later formed two lines of barricades, resulting in a stand-off.
However, as negotiations with police was going on, part of the crowd was ‘secretly’ diverted to use an alley as an exit to walk to Istana Negara.
By 3.15pm, the whole group broke away from the stand-off, leaving the square completely quiet. Apparently, the attempt by these 500 protesters to “get into” Dataran Merdeka was a ruse to keep the riot police busy.
The protesters from Pasar Seni joined thousands others who had earlier gathered at Masjid Jamek and Sogo department store.
As they marched towards Jalan Istana, they converged with about 4,000 more protesters from the Masjid Negara.
The protesters arrived at Istana Negara in stages.
About 2,000 workers from PAS’ Unit Amal (traffic marshal) were tasked with crowd and traffic control.
These workers, cladded in a maroon uniform and beret, were also tasked to help disperse the protesters as well as cleaning up after the rally ended.
4-min video – Long and wet march from Sogo to Istana