I remember what a teacher from my primary schooldays said about a decade ago while he was attending a wedding at our house in Taiping.
He said that from his years as a teacher - right from the 60s until the 90s; from rural Lenggong to posh Damansara, he had come to the conclusion that typically 'anak-anak polis kurang menjadi."
I am not sure if they were the exact words he used. I am not sure if I had asked him why. But I am quite sure as an educator, he is above board in making a judgment. I am sure he was not making just a passing remarks, but merely stating his observation over his long career teaching kids from many walk of life.
Yesterday I found out why.
This time around it was not raining cats and dogs like the Bersih gathering in November in 2007. And unlike Bersih, I came (nearly) fully prepared thanks to the reminder posted om the net.
And this time around I came 'armed' with my Nikon with my bro from the North.
But in order to protect it, I decide not to be in the firing line of the battle field, except on one occasion. I can't afford to damage my Nikon in the event I was caught with a acidic water cannon pointed directly at me. I don't have a big newspaper organization to bail me in the event my camera got damaged. As a blogger, I would have to pay it from my own pocket, and hence my precaution.
We arrived at Masjed Jamek at 1 pm and were immediately shoo-ed away by this police contingent. They were shouting themselves hoarse, trying to frighten the public to leave. They also must have a year worth of supply of Dequadin! This picture is clocked at 1:07 pm.
Aik, I can't have my Dzohor at Jamek ah? Yeah, yeah, so we walked away to the street along the river, pretending to leave. Five mins later, we were back at the Jamek station.
And I was there to take pictures, primarily.
By then of course at least one truckload of protesters had been taken away.
After the zohor prayer, battle royale ensued.
These guys are ready to battle the public 'armed' with camera, determination and a right to voice their opinion.
To be honest, I thought the police had lost the war yesterday. Yes, they won sporadic battles; at Masjid Jamek where tears gas filled the already grey afternoon. Yes, we saw many were simply overcame by it. It was that thick - I didn't see it during Bersih.
(The Unit Amal getting ready to lead the crowd to Istana Negara. They were ready to face off with the police, if they were stopped. Brave guys. This is clocked at 1.55 pm)
So they fired the first shot less than 10m away from crowd with me in the middle of it.
(Five seconds after the tear gas was shot at the crowd @ 1.58 pm. This Unit Amal person was in the middle of this thick smoke and still holding fort. This was my last shot before I for ran my life too!)
I said the police lost the war simply because the people were able to move from Masjed Jamek (after being tear-gassed) to Sogo (and later to Jalan Raja Laut/PAS HQ). Again they were tear-gassed and water-cannoned there, and many ran for the their lives.
But they didn't disperse and disappear. It was a game of cat and mouse. And the organizer and the crowds were smarter this time around. And determined, if I may add.
The police regrouping in front of SOGO (above at 2.31 pm), while at the back of SOGO (below at 2.41 pm), they FRU were preparing to attack the protester.
(Face Off - The crowd thought they would march to Istana Negara, but the water-cannoned trucks were ready for them. Of course I was at the back of the crowd, ready to bail out anytime [sigh].)
And then it happened.
Running for their lives. Here at SOGO, more tear gas and then the water cannon trucks did the job of dispersing the crowd.
But despite twice being tear-gassed and water-cannoned, the protesters then walked from SOGO through ChowKit to the PAS HQ and took over the street peacefully and thanks to the traffic jam created by the sheer number of people, the police were unable to breakthrough and hence were able to have a peaceful gathering full of short speaches by the Pakatan's leadership.
It was one speech after another, with many chanting calling for ISA to be repealed, and of course a demand for 'reformasi'.
It was a jovial atmosphere. After two 'battles' - Masjed Jamek and SOGO, these protesters were able to gather in peace, and in one piece. The picture below is clocked at 3.12 pm.
Cars trapped in the traffic jam were not honking excessively, if at all. Many were honking with the short blast, more as a show of support (or at least that's how I interpret it). Bus drivers were giving their thumbs up as we walked passed by.
At this point, the protesters were reasonably safe. With the traffic jam, the police trucks could not get through to this area. Or at least that's what we thought. But honestly, I think the police can get through if it were to reverse-flow Jalan Raja Laut. I don't think there is a barricade there. And if they were smart, these crowds would be in one big trouble.
No one did anything to aggravate the situation and turned it to a tense atmosphere. It was simply a walk in the sun for many. I didn't hear anyone taunting the police - only after the police started to shoot tear gas, and water cannon, then the protesters started to curse the police (to themselves).
After the speeches, and chanting, people started to leave. And they dispersed amidst call from the organizer to 'finish off' the foods at the mamak's restaurants, to the laughter of the crowd.
But as the crowd were starting to disperse at around 3.44 pm, and once the traffics were begining to flow back again, the police decided that irrespective of the fact that the people had dispersed voluntarily, the water-cannoned truck - now being able to breakthorough, began to shoot at the them.
(This time around at 3.54 pm, it was another 'run for your life' exercise for them, and more were apprehended by the police. This was taken in front of EON Bank, behind PAS HQ.)
I was cursing the police actions as I was walking home too. It was an unprovoked attack on civilians walking in the streets, and it was without basis, from my judgment. My point is that they had dispersed voluntarily and without being asked or warned by the police.
Yes, if they thought the gathering is without permit, they could apprehend the demonstrants caught in the act- that's debatable still, but not while people (men, women, children) were walking.
As I have said, no wonder Cikgu had that notions even then the childrens of policemen would not normally make it in life. I mean I am sure there are other reasons and explanations, but if the current crops of policemen are wondering why, I would say getting the curse and doa from the people they had wronged would be one reason why.
I am sure it would not be fair to generalize. I know that.
Honestly, if they have any dignity left in them, they should be looking for another job. Serious.
Personally I stayed on till the very end. Have camera, will be there, I guess. It gave me the license and freedom to 'mingle' I guess. The FRU were shouting at all and sundry to disperse and disappear and we were right there in the crowd, but my bro and I were spared. Our SLRs were our saving grace.
(In fact it was the FRU who were asking Mydin's Corner (??) at the junction to close and stay inside. They were shouting on top of their lung. Unless they have a free supply of Dequadin, they would be hoarse for the whole month! In fact it the FRU who shot water cannon inside Mydin's Corner while people were having the teh tarik!)
At 4.40 pm, we saw this Waja screeching to a halt in front of PAS HQ. Out came this police officer, and his staff - high and mighty I must add, and they rushed to the entrance. I thought they would simply break the glass door.
(He is staring directly into my camera. May be he didn't like it I was taking his pictures.)
But the photographers and cameramen were ready. It would be a great picture opportunities after hours in the sun. I think all were expecting the worst, and everybody were aiming their camera at the police waiting for his every move.
It was not Unit Amal preventing them from breaking in as reported in HarakahDaily (PAS pun kadang2 syok sendiri bila reporting). Sure the door was locked, but if the police had wanted to barge in, I am sure they could, and there is nothing the Unit Amal could do.
He is also staring hard into my lense. I am not supposed to take pictures? After these two officer conferred with each other, they all left.
But of course they left while burning rubbers on the tarmac.
Not sure what these guys were trying to do, and why they left so suddenly.
When the FRU decided to leave, they got an applause from the crowd! (Basically a good riddance taunt actually.) And may be because of that, they didn't leave immediately after disbanding.
(Jalan Raja Laut, near PAS HQ, and the contingent had decided to disband. Honestly at this point, there is probably more police than there are people.)
In the end, two police officers came to us and asked us who we were working for, and my bro replied that we are bloggers. He spoke very nicely, very professionally and asked us to leave, as otherwise it would never end.
We decided to take his advice. That's the way it is supposed to be. Tabik to you (I didn't get him name unfortunately, as our hearts probably did skip a beat when these two approached us!) for being so professional. I saw many were taken in without much reasons, and I am quite sure they could have taken us in too, if they had wanted to.
Deep down though, we know the only reason the crowd and the cameramen were still there, was simply because that the police were still there. Which one is first - the chicken or the egg? It is much like that situation. It is Catch 22.
Yes, even as a photographer, we were not spared from the tear gas. Once I had to simply get out and get fresh air. But my towel helped alleviate it, and the many staff of Unit Amal PAS with their supply of salt did a tremendous job. I wonder if the salt is simply to give energy or how it rejuvenates you, is a mystery to this blogger.
I must admit I am impressed with the many gals and ladies in their tudung labuh making the presence felt. I have to tabik them for being a man, while this blogger was wishing he was somewhere else, especially when that police officer's car came to a screeching halt just a few feet from where we were seating (on the pavement).
Honestly I did a bad job yesterday. Too many pics over exposed. The grey sky didn't help, and the fact I didn't check the ISO setting aggravate the situation. I need to learn how to take good pics formally.
For the record, we met Mak's neighbour from Taiping with his wife. They must be closing in on 70 if not there already. All the way from Taiping and were there at Jamek since 1130 hours, a good 1 1/2 hours earlier than us. I mean two 70-year olds at the protest? Can this not tell you something?
I saw many youngsters too. And many were willing to be in the firing line. All bode well for the future. We do have hope in this country.
Unlike me who could only think of bread and butter issue, these people see the bigger picture.
I also know it is not fair to judge the police in this manner. Unfortunately it was not their call. So do not take the view here personally, if you are a children of a policeman.
(All pictures were taken by this blogger. For more pictures please visit rahmanhariri.fotopages.com)