Only minor hiccups at peaceful gathering

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KUALA LUMPUR: A sea of people dressed in red marched through the streets of the city for the Himpunan Rakyat Bersatu at Padang Merbok, a rally which ended peacefully after speeches and a silat show.

However, there were some minor altercations between police and protesters in Petaling Street and Bukit Bintang.

The protesters, who said they were fighting for unity and upholding the Constitution, marched along major roads, including Bukit Bintang, before heading to Padang Merbok.

A strong police presence at sensitive areas such as Petaling Street and Bukit Bintang kept things under control. Police also blocked access to the two areas.

The red shirts began entering Kuala Lumpur as early as 7.30am and met at four designated checkpoints – Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC), Kompleks Kraftangan, the National Mosque and the Federal Territory mosque.

The crowd started building up at Padang Merbok at around 3pm where organisers gave speeches, a silat show was held and poetry was read out. The rally was organised by the National Silat Federation (Pesaka).

They started to disperse peacefully at about 5.30pm after organi­sers read out a 14-point resolution.

Among the resolutions was for the Internal Security Act (ISA) to be brought back in order to defend the country against racial and chauvi­nistic politics and to reject the involvement of foreigners in the running of the country.

Everything was under control at the field but there were problems elsewhere, with scuffles, injuries, threats to journalists and racially provocative calls going on at Petaling Street and Bukit Bintang.

Although the organisers cancelled assemblies at the two areas, some protesters gathered there after 1pm, leading to a standoff with the Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) and Rela members who had formed human barricades.

The protesters were ordered to disperse and when they refused to do so after repeated warnings, FRU personnel were forced to fire water cannons.

Two policeman and one protester suffered light injuries after being hit by projectiles at about 5.30pm.

Some of the rally-goers were also heard hurling abuse at reporters.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak posted on Facebook in the evening that he “was informed that the rally ended peacefully except for an incident”.

The police, he said, should investigate.

“It should not have happened. All must abide by police instructions.”

Federal Commercial Crime Inves­tigation Department deputy director Senior Asst Comm Roslan Abd Wahid, who was the police deputy ground commander for the rally, said the authorities had no option but to use water cannons.

Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar congratulated the police for their professional conduct.

“We are colour blind. Those who break the law must face the consequences,” he tweeted.

The protesters at Petaling Street dispersed at about 8pm and the roads were opened to regular traffic. – The Star Online

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