KUALA LUMPUR, May 1 ― The highly-anticipated May Day rally by civil society movement #KitaLawan has drawn thousands to the streets of the capital in a massive show of protest against the government’s rollout of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
From Masjid Jamek to the National Mosque, crowds began moving from as early as 2.30pm as they marched towards the iconic Kuala Lumpur twin towers in the heart of the city.
There were seas of red as protesters marched from different directions, sporting banners and chanting “Reformasi!” as they made their advances.
Despite protesters going against an earlier warning by the police to only assemble at Padang Merbok, there was scant police presence with only a handful of traffic officers seen observing the march.
Dataran Merdeka, however, was blockaded from all access points, with police personnel lined up along the entire length of barricades set up at the field.
A senior police officer, who declined to be named, told Malay Mail Online that the protesters are free to march towards the twin towers.
“Only Dataran Merdeka is off limits. They are free to march to KLCC… they won’t be stopped,” he said referring to the acronym for the twin towers.
As at 4pm, the crowd of hundreds swelled to thousands as more joined the cries of disapproval against the GST, a consumption tax system that many have described as regressive.
Most were wearing the red “Batal GST” shirts, while others wore the black “KitaLawan” shirts and carried banners urging for the resignation of the prime minister.
So far, there is no sign of the signature red and blue of the Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) although traffic policemen are keeping close watch.
Outside KLCC, a crowd is listening to speeches from leaders of several non-governmental organisations (NGO).
One speaker named “Imran” lamented over how even without the GST, students have already been struggling to pay for their tuition costs.
“We study so hard, and GST adds to our burden. Do you agree with me?” he asked the crowd, who responded in kind.
Several politicians also took turns delivering speeches, including PKR’s Rafizi Ramli and DAP’s Anthony Loke.
Shortly after 5pm, the rally fizzled out with more cries of “Reformasi” and “Batal GST” (cancel GST) from the crowd. A prayer was also recited before participants were urged to disperse.
Few Pakatan Rakyat (PR) leaders said the turnout at today’s protest was commendable.
Rafizi said the crowd was consistent with previous big rallies, labelling it “satisfactory”.
Meanwhile, PAS MP Dr Hatta Ramli said he was very happy despite the long weekend, the turnout had “met expectations”.