Police arrested Human Rights Party (HRP) leader P Uthayakumar and erected roadblocks around Kuala Lumpur in the bid to stop an 'anti-racism' rally organised by it and its affiliate Hindraf in the city centre .
The rally is also aimed at protesting the controversial 'Interlok' novel by national laureate Abdullah Hussain, which has been criticised for containing racial slurs and stereotypes against the Indian and Chinese communities.
Uthayakumar (right), who has been arrested numerous times, including as Hindraf leader, and spent 18 months in detention under the Internal Security Act (ISA), was today intercepted by the police as he left his apartment in Pantai Hillpark, Kuala Lumpur, at 8am.
“He was handcuffed and taken in a white van,” said Uthayakumar's younger brother, Waythamoorthy from London in an SMS message to Malaysiakini.
According to HRP information chief S Jayathas, Uthayakumar was been brought to the Sentul district police headquarters for questioning.
It is understood that the march is to begin now from the Renaissance Hotel, which is located about one kilometre away from the Kuala Lumpur City Centre (KLCC).
In addition to Uthayakumar, scores of other persons suspected of being participants in the rally have also been taken in by the police this morning - seven at KLCC and 10 at the Renaissance Hotel.
Their identities have not yet been ascertained.
As at 10am, it has been estimated that about 100 people have been arrested in various parts of Kuala Lumpur.
The police appeared to be stopping and arresting anyone suspected as Hindraf supporters, especially Indians, who were found walking in the streets of Kuala Lumpur.
Many by-passers have complained that they have been stopped and their bags checked despite having nothing to do with the rally.
Kuala Lumpur locked down
Meanwhile, the police have locked down Kuala Lumpur city centre ahead of the planned demonstration.
Roadblocks, some set up as early as 5.30am, were reported on Jalan Ampang, Jalan Kepong, Jalan Cheras, Jalan Tun Razak and Jalan Duta–Sungai Buloh Highway, among others.
The march was supposed to have begun at the KLCC, but plans were apparently modified following the large presence of police personnel this morning.
An estimated 200 uniformed and plainclothed police officers - including four trucks with Light Strike Force (LSF) personnel - have been stationed on Jalan Ampang between Avenue K and the Petronas Twin Towers.
Reporters have been told to stay put near the bus stop on the KLCC side, but such directions are intermittently broken when a commotion breaks out elsewhere.
Around 9.15am, about 80 in groups of 10 to 30 HRP/Hindraf supporters marched from Renaissance Hotel towards KLCC, shouting "Makkal Sakthi" and other slogans - were arrested in front of Maya Hotel.
Two Malaysiakini citizen journalists (CJs) Mathavan Velayutham and Thiagarajan Marrapan were arrested while shooting footage of the protest. This was despite the CJs producing their press tags to the cops and wearing their 'Citizen Journalist' T-shirts.A reporter from Tamil daily Makkal Osai was also among those taken in while reporting on the event.
Kedah HRP chief Ramu Ramasamy and a Penang HRP leader were among those arrested. Both have been brought to the Sentul district police headquarters.
HRP information chief Jayathas was arrested around 10am and brought to the Jinjang district police headquarters.
According to a police source, 78 people had been arrested.
Amidst the commotion, a small group of students belonging to the Association of Tamil Students Malaysia, held a small demonstration on Jalan Mayang, off Jalan Ampang, near the Australian High Commission against the Interlok novel. They were dispersed without any arrests.
By about 10.20am, activity at the KLCC area appeared to have died down considerably with police personnel standing down.
The action by this time had moved to the Kootu Malai Pillayar Temple on Jalan Pudu near the Pudu bus station, where about HRP supporters and members have gathered and shouted 'Hindraf Velga!' 'Haramkan Interlok!' and 'Jangan hina kaum India' (Don't insult the Indian community!)
March proceeds to Pudu IPK
They carried banners supporting their anti-racism and anti-Interlok .
After chanting for about half an hour, they proceeded to march towards the Pudu district police headquarters.
They included about six disabled persons and Kota Alam Shah state representataive M Manoharan.
By about 11.45am, the crowd had swelled to a procession of about 200 moving towards the Pudu police station.
Water cannons were seen on standby at the Pudu headquarters.
During the march, the police drove two patrol cars into the crowd, forcing the HRP/Hindraf supporters to break up into two lines and onto the sidewalks flanking the road.
Upon arrival at the Pudu police station, the demonstrators demanded that Kuala Lumpur deputy police chief Amar Singh the for release of those arrested within the hour. Malaysiakini was informed that at least 183 have been arrested over the aborted HRP/Hindraf rally.
Or else, said the demonstrators, they would camp outside the Pudu police station. They made the assurance, however, that they would not block traffic.