After seeing many of the video clips on the 28th April BERSIH 3.0 event showing the actions of the yellows (protestors) and the blues (police), I should say that both parties were influenced by the mob psychology rather than rational arguments. The action of the yellows in bursting through police barricade certainly calls for threatening reaction. But the kicking and punching of some youths in yellow sitting peacefully in the compound of Masjid India while the muazan was calling the Muslims to prayer, appears most irrational and emotionally driven. The more so when a group of blues started kicking and punching a helpless victim while his friends merely shouted their objection and did not come to help.
The overturning of a police patrol car was certainly done in an angry-mob spirit. But then a police car plowing throng a throng of unarmed people was not a wise thing to do either. Especiaally when there was a suspicion that someone could have been trapped underneath the car.
And now the police are going after some characters who are shown on video to be actively involved in provoking the police (or attacking the police with stones and sticks) or c causing material damage to public property. Is that fair when they were under the influence of a mob psychology as were the police when they thrashed the youths in yellow at Masjid India? Hundreds of protestors have been detained, we hear. They certainly would be Malay youths and students who could never employ the best lawyers around to defend them, while the non-Malay organizers of the event get their lawyers around to defend their case if charged.
The entire pandemonium and wild skirmish seemed to start from the ban on using the Dataran Merdeka and blocking all roads leading towards the venue. All stadiums were offered as optional venues but BERSIH organizers refused to accept the offer.Of what good is a stadium for a street protest. one may ask. It's only good for the police to facilitate crowd control while the crowd is the essence of a public protest movement. An open place somewhere else should have been offered if the city center was to be avoided.
No,one cannot blame the government for doing what it has to do to counter the opposition from hiding behind the public protest movement. And no one can blame the police for doing what it has to do to control the crowd. What can be questioned is not what has to be done but HOW COULD IT BE DONE? Lao Tsu said that the best way of winning a war is to win it without a fight. The best victory is won by not fighting. Couldn't we learn something from this philosophy? The government could have easily preempted the use of the Dataran Merdeka for some other purpose to move the protest to some other dates and some other place. Better still was to remove the causes of the protest or minimize its scope. The police can't just "close the door for any other discussion/negotiation"?. That's very peremptory and inappropriate in a democratic society.
I think the police has to rethink matters and not just issue orders not to do this and that. People with political freedom and freedom of choice want to know why certain things, not to their liking, are done. Make them appreciate the need for doing something before it is done, not try to explain (with lots of excuse), after it's done. In psychology we say make people want to do something and the thing will get done very easily. Don't try to stop a river but channel the water elsewhere if you want to avoid a flood in a certain area.
Protest movement and street protests will continue to take place in a democratic society for people have a right to state their case. There are thousand and one ways of letting people be heard. But stop them from ventilating their feelings, and democracy is sacrificed.