My May Day Post-Twitter

On Sunday, I kind of wished I had access to a Black Berry or an iPhone or whatever else people use to access twitter without being at a computer just so I could have been one of them twitter journalists coming straight from the action, but instead all I had to tweet with was a pen and paper. So this is kind of what I would have tweeted had I had the ability to do so. However, as I’m not tweeting this, and editing it two days later, I have the ability to write more and add facts that I didn’t know at the time. I’m also writing it in past tense because I was confusing myself trying to write in present tense as if I was actually writing it all at the time.

Also, I didn’t take any photos. Everyone always takes lots of photos of these things. There’s also lots of video too. So I guess just have a look around google and youtube for that.

10:45 – I arrived at Chow Kit monorail station. From inside the monorail I could see many people standing on the side of the road watching something. I assumed they were watching a gathering of people. When I got down I didn’t see a gathering of people. There were a lot of police and a lot of media. There was a huddle of police and media around one or a few people and I watched from the back as one of the people was dragged by the police into a police car which drove off with its siren on. I have no idea what happened. I met a friend there and he too had no idea what happened. After sending an SMS or two I found out the gathering was now at Maju Junction, which turned out to be a ten to fifteen minute walk up Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman from the monorail station.

Turns out that I had witnessed the arrests of S Arutchelvan the Secretary-General of PSM (Parti Sosialis Malaysia) and A Sivarajan the Treasurer of PSM. Watch it on YouTube.

11:00 – I arrived at Maju Junction. This is where the gathering was. I was able to find some faces I knew but the Noisy crew hadn’t yet arrived. There were many people holding banners in Malay, English and Chinese and not long after I arrived there was at least one speech given. I couldn’t quite hear the speech clearly though and it was in Malay so I may not have understood it all anyway. I assume it may have been based on the “May Day 2011 Declaration” which I was able to get a copy of and if I get the time I might try to do a rough translation into English.

11:10 – We started marching and after about fifty metres from Maju Junction at a nearby building that housed Tabung Haji and Kementerian Penerangan, Komunikasi dan Kebudayaan (KPKK – Ministry of Information, Communication and Culture) we stopped. I think I heard people banging on the windows and doors of the place and I assume tried to get in. I wasn’t quite sure what was happening, if they were attempting to occupy the ministry offices or something else but that seemed a likely motive to me. It wasn’t very long until either the door was opened by protesters from the outside or the police from the inside, and after which a bit of a scuffle resulted. Police pushed protesters, protesters pushed police, police yelled, people yelled, it all got a bit intense for a little while until the majority of protesters decided to sit down. After which, the police attack stopped. Watch it on Youtube.

11:25 – Still outside Tabung Haji and KPKK. The sit-in continued and people start singing songs such as Solidarity Forever and a song in Malay that I assume is called Kita Bangun.

12:00 – Still outside Tabung Haji and KPKK. After singing and chanting and general hanging around, most people stood up but hung around some more. The anarchists unfurled their banners and passed around black head/arm bands with ‘May Day Pekerja Bersatu’ (May Day Workers Unite) printed on them. The media then took lots of photos of people standing around holding banners.

12:10 – Outside Tabung Haji and KPKK the banners were tied to the railing that separated the footpath from the road – the banners facing outwards to Jalan Sultan Ismail so that cars going past could see.

12:25 – Word started to go around that there were plans for the gathering to split into two groups. I heard that one group was to stay at Maju Junction while the other group was to head to the nearby Police Station (Dang Wangi Ibu Pejabat Polis). The anarchist bloc decided to leave for the police station so I followed along.

12:35 – A group of us left together to walk to the police station. There was about 30 of us in the group – mostly anarchists, a few from Islamic student groups and some others. We walked while still carrying our banners.

12:40 – We arrived at the police station and including our group that just arrived there was about 70 or 80 people there all from different groups. Almost straight away one of our friends was taken by the police. I was a bit further from where it happened but one of my friends standing nearby commented on how they think the arrest was just a media opportunity for the police – there were heaps of media around and the police officer who arrested our friend seemed to be posing for the cameras. Watch the arrest on YouTube.

12:50 – Outside the police station one of the police officers started yelling really loudly at everyone. He said we had five minutes to leave. I thought, ok, so we’ll stay for five minutes. However, people had already started moving back up the road. As this was happening a lot of police came out of the police station and started walking us up the road. There would have been at least 100. One of our friends was approached by police. At first I thought they were going to arrest him too but then I saw that they’d let him go. Apparently, their conversation went something like: “You look familiar, I’ve seen you at all the protests!”, “Hey, I’m just here to observe. I’m just being peaceful, I don’t want to fight anyone.” – and it worked.

12:55 – There were about twenty or so of us outside the 7-11 about fifty metres up the road and about forty people at the bus stop across the road from the police station. At least four people also went off to make a police report on the actions of the police at Maju Junction and outside the police station.

13:10 – A truck had left the police station and I noticed it was carrying some of those who had been arrested. I told my friends to run after it to find out where the truck was going. The traffic lights were red so we all had the opportunity to run up and ask questions and talk to people we knew. We found out they were being taken to the Balai Polis Tun H S Lee near Stadium Merdeka. However, it was uncertain if all the people had been taken so we hung around to try to make some calls and SMS some people to ask about our friend.

13:15 – Most of us were now sitting outside the 7-11 waiting for news of the others who weren’t in that truck to Balai Polis H S Lee. Two trucks full of riot police and a water cannon drove past and parked at the bus stop where we had gathered only a few minutes earlier.

13:40 – Still outside the 7-11. The four who had gone off to write the police report had returned with copies of their report.

13:45 – We find out that all those arrested had been taken to Balai Polis H S Lee. So we started walking.

14:45 – After a brief stop to buy cendol, gathering some people, getting split up but then joining another group on their way to the police station, and seeing a lot of KL I’d never seen, I finally arrived at the police station. There were at least 150-200 people there, maybe more because I don’t really know how to estimate crowd numbers.

15:10 – Outside the police station, some people arrive with a lot of packages of curry and rice. All day people had been passing around boxes of bottles of water and sweet bread cakes. Malaysia seems to know what’s important in organising a protest!

16:35 – Outside the police station, and four bags full of Indian kuih arrived – karipap, pisang goreng and more. At the same time a small group of people assemble outside the gate of the police station. The police have called for enough people to bail out those arrested (which I heard was nineteen).

17:25 – At this time I left with a friend who had to go off somewhere else. By the time we had left, the police still hadn’t allowed the people in to bail out those arrested. They kept prolonging the process, claiming the forms weren’t ready or other excuses. When we left there was still a lot of people assembled outside in solidarity.

I found out later that my friend had been charged with ‘illegal gathering’ and I assume that’s what the others would have been charged with too. It seems like a really silly charge. If nineteen people are arrested and charged with ‘illegal gathering’ what about the other hundreds of people who were there? Why only those nineteen? Surely, to be consistent they’d need to arrest all of us or none of us. Not that I’m suggesting they arrest us all, of course.

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