KUALA LUMPUR: Despite the ugly and sometimes violent run-up, the Bersih 5.0 rally and Red Shirts counter-rally turned out to be somewhat subdued and, more importantly, peaceful.
The much predicted clash between the red and yellow shirts did not happen, thanks to the diligent and watchful men in blue.
The coordinated arrests of key leaders on both sides by the police the day before may have served to take the sting out of the occasion.
There were also volunteers, dressed in purple, acting for Bersih to keep security – and supporters – in check.
The yellow shirts outnumbered their rivals to call for clean and fair elections.
Many began gathering at various parts of the city as early as 7am.
Although the group was not able to march into Dataran Merdeka as they had initially wanted to, they settled with gathering at major hotspots around the city.
The police skilfully managed to keep the parties apart and largely out of trouble.
Around 2pm, word spread among Bersih supporters that the new rally point was KLCC, leading to a large yellow migration from as far as Bangsar to the city centre.
Once outside KLCC, the supporters cheered as they listened to speeches from prominent leaders, including former prime minster Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, former deputy prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and activist Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan.
However, the rally which was scheduled to end at 6pm was cut short by half an hour due to rain, with many supporters running into KLCC for shelter.
While the rally was largely peaceful a few incidents did take place.
An advertising gimmick for a driving school turned sour when several Bersih supporters spotted the staff in red-yellow shirts and started to boo them, thinking they were from the Red Shirts.
But as it turned out, that group of men were sales promoters on an advertising gimmick. Later, they unfurled a banner promoting a driving school.
In Padang Merbok, a man believed to be from the Red Shirts, was arrested after he provoked and kicked a Bersih supporter.
The incident occurred at about 11am when a group of Bersih supporters walking in front of Padang Merbok at Jalan Parliament towards Dataran Merdeka crossed paths with another group, believed to be Red Shirt supporters.
The man was seen trying to provoke a Bersih supporter and kicking one of them before several plainclothes policemen apprehended him and took him away.
To help rally participants cope with the sweltering heat earlier, several groups gave out bottles of water to both Bersih and Red Shirt supporters as well as reporters.
At one point, the LRT station at KLCC was so densely packed with crowds taking shelter from the rain that groups had to be let in onto the platforms in batches due to the overpowering stench of sweat.
In KUCHING, heavy rain cut short the rally attended by some 200 people at the amphitheatre. It was a peaceful assembly.
In GEORGE TOWN, a small group gathered at the Esplanade in Jalan Padang Kota Lama in support of the Bersih 5 rally. More than 10 plainclothes policemen were present to prevent any untoward incidents.
In KOTA KINABALU, local ethnic flavour coloured the Bersih Sabah rally at the Kota Kinabalu Rainforest park.
Scores of rally participants were greeted with the beating of gongs as they streamed into the park just before 3pm before two Kadazandusun shaman performed a “cleansing” ritual under the watchful eyes of dozens of policemen.
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