They accused the government of mismanaging the Covid-19 pandemic.
Hundreds of protesters dressed in black marched to Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur this morning to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin.
Organisers Sekretariat Solidariti Rakyat (SSR) cited a crowd estimated of around 2,000 people while the police capped the number at 400.
Many brought banners and placards that read “Kerajaan Gagal” (failed government) while others were carrying black flags.
The crowd of mostly youths started gathering at around 10.30am and started moving nearly an hour later, under close observation by the Kuala Lumpur police.
Upon reaching the Kuala Lumpur City Hall intersection, organisers ordered the crowd to sit on the road.
SSR spokesperson Mohd Asraf Sarafi led the group in a series of chants and protest songs, with some in the crowd noting it has been a long time since they felt this fired up.
As he stood by the junction, Asraf announced that the gathered youths are at an important juncture in history.
“We the youths are at an intersection where we are faced with a decision to make.
“When we see destruction, do we remain silent or do we fight?” he said to cries of “lawan!” (fight) from the seated crowd.
Others from the organising committee included Muda co-founder Amir Abdul Hadi, Undi-18 co-founder Qyira Yusri, and Suaram coordinator Muhammad Abdullah Al Syatry.
The protesters largely accused the government of mismanaging the Covid-19 pandemic.
Some also displayed mock corpses wrapped in shrouds to symbolise the mounting Covid-19 deaths in the country.
At one corner, a group of eight held individual signs spelling out M-A-T-I (death) and 8-8-5-9 – the latest Covid-19 death toll – a reminder of the impact of the government’s alleged incompetence to manage the pandemic.
Several protesters met by Malaysiakini said they saw the protest as a final hope for change.
Wan* said he was left jobless since last year.
“This protest is my lifeline. It would be more difficult without a change.
“I also have friends who were infected with Covid-19,” he told Malaysiakini.
“I hope the government can hear the people’s voices as there are those who want to see a change in government.
“This is our way to express ourselves,” he said.
Liyana Madihah Zakaria, 32, said she came with her husband to show that the people are tired of the current situation.
“There is no more democracy, so we will fight!
“In times of the pandemic, there are people who said don’t go, it’s dangerous, but everyone has their limits,” she said.
The youthful crowd was joined by some notable figures including PKR vice president Tian Chua.
In solidarity with the organisers, Tian Chua said the peaceful protest was evidence that people can gather to express their rights if facilitated by the authorities.
“I hope this will inspire more people not only to rise but to speak up against injustices,” he said.
The rally also saw several teams of observers including from the Bar Council, National Human Rights Commission (Suhakam), and several organisations in support of freedom of expression.
Police earlier cordoned off multiple roads into Dataran Merdeka but did not stop people from walking towards the location.
The blocked roads included Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Jalan Sultan Hishamuddin, and an intersection from Jalan Kinabalu to Jalan Sultan Hishammuddin.
The square itself was barricaded to prevent anyone from entering.
There was also heavy police presence with personnel constantly reminding participants to observe physical distancing.
Organisers also advised participants to abide by standard operating procedures against Covid-19 including taking their body temperature and masking up.
Police issued a call to disperse at 12.35pm, after allowing one final sit-down protest to go on for about 30 minutes, with protestors spanning the distance from the KL City Hall building towards Masjid Jamek LRT station where the march started.
The organisers followed dispersal orders issued by the authorities and similarly called for protestors to leave peacefully.
The areas around Dataran Merdeka were fully vacated at around 1pm.
At a press conference later, Dang Wangi district police chief Zainal Abdullah said actions will be taken as although the rally went on without any problems, it remains a violation of the current movement control order rules.