Some 4,000 protesters, mainly women, gathered in Padang Merbok in solidarity with detained Bersih leader Maria Chin Abdullah and then marched to Parliament to call for her release.
Civil society activist Maria’s arrest without trial under the draconian security law Sosma has certainly shaken up many Malaysians.
The marchers gathered at Padang Merbok at around 10am. One of them is K, attending a protest rally for the first time in her life. “I made a few new friends here. Many of the women have taken leave from their usual work to be here.”
Among those present in the ethnically diverse crowd were Ambiga Sreenevasan, Ivy Josiah and Pak Samad.
Most wore “Bebas Maria” yellow T-shirts with purple ribbons or purple T-shirts with yellow ribbons – yellow being the colour for Bersih while purple symbolised the campaign to free Maria.
Someone asking participants to put their names on a list said 2,800 had done so already. But many others said they had not yet signed.
As they made their way to Parliament, an eyewitness at the scene reported: “The police appear to be assisting the marchers while Bersih also has its own security team at the site. The crowd is now singing ‘Bebas Maria!'”
One participant said the police on the ground appeared generally “friendly”.
One protester was spotted carrying a placard which read “Kita semua Maria Chin!” (We are all Maria Chin!), which was a recurrent theme throughout the morning. Women greeted one another with high-fives: “I am Maria!” they introduced themselves.
Walked for Maria this morning to the parliament gates. Her detention is a dastardly act of the Najib govt! pic.twitter.com/aksPyqjN4T
— Johan Saravanamuttu (@johans45) November 23, 2016
— Fadiah Nadwa Fikri (@FadiahNadwa) November 23, 2016
At Parliament, only a few women were allowed into hand in their memorandum, which was finally received by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri.
Meanwhile, an online petition saw its number of signatures almost double overnight to reach close to 40,000.
Malaysia’s largest circulating English-language daily, theSun, added its voice to the public clamour for Maria to be released with a banner headline this morning:
Are the winds of change blowing?