May Day gathering terrorised by police

May 15, 2002

MALAYSIA: May Day gathering terrorised by police

KUALA LUMPUR — What was to be a peaceful gathering of progressive workers and social justice activists on May 1 at Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC Twin Towers) turned into mayhem when police arrested 18 people, including an eight-year-old boy.

An estimated 150 people started their annual May Day “walk” from Chow Kit, towards the KLCC Twin Towers for the gathering. After walking for 1.5 kilometres, they were confronted by a group of police officers who charged the crowd without warning or provocation.

Many workers were hurt when police grabbed banners, tore clothes and scattered leaflets. Police initially refused to let workers get on buses parked nearby. An hour later, buses were allowed to ferry the workers away but negotiators were arrested by the police while trying to help people onto the buses.

Among the 18 arrested an eight-year-old boy who was reported to have been arrested for wearing a head scarf with the slogan, “Return the rights of workers”.

S. Arutchelvan, one of the organisers arrested, said the police violence “mocks the workers' fundamental right to assembly peacefully”.

The theme of this year's May Day was “Return the rights of workers for wages, work and union”. Among the key demands called by the 50 sponsoring organisations were minimum wages, land rights for farmers and indigenous peoples, the right to join trade unions and an end to racial discrimination.

The groups also called for a stop to the use of the Employees Pension Fund to bail-out crony companies and a transparent, credible and responsible government.

From Green Left Weekly, May 15, 2002.
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