KUALA LUMPUR - It started out as a low-key rally but the Goods and Services Tax (GST) protest soon turned huge with thousands of protesters converging peacefully at Dataran Merdeka before moving on to KLCC.
Swarms of protesters marched from several meeting points in the city shortly after Friday prayers, including Masjid Jamek, Masjid Negara, Dataran Maybank and Sogo, and chanted "anti-GST" and "Kita Lawan" slogans loudly.
Some carried placards asking for the withdrawal of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and his wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor.
While the rally was deemed illegal by the authorities, some 1,000 policemen, who were on hand at Dataran Merdeka, facilitated traffic flow, including letting some protesters through the barricade at the historical landmark and gather with their fellow marchers before they headed off to KLCC.
The protesters were dressed mostly in red and black T-shirts with the slogan anti-GST emblazoned on them.
PAS central committee member Dr Dzulkefly Ahmad, who was among scores of politicians who participated, kicked off the rally with a speech on how the public could no longer bear the rising cost of living since the implementation of GST on April 1.
"On average, the Government has collected RM42mil a day since GST took effect. And whose money is this? Ours!" he said to chants of "hancur GST" from the crowd.
The protest went on smoothly until several explosions were heard near Dataran Merdeka and its surrounding areas.
This was followed by the emergence of a group calling themselves "Antifa", almost causing a scuffle to break out between them and the protesters near Dataran Merdeka.
The "Antifa" group, which donned black T-shirts and face masks, started waving a black and red flag before setting off flares and ball-shaped firecrackers.
The protesters stood their ground and called the group stupid for trying to start trouble with them and provoking the police.
The tense situation was quickly defused when other protesters stepped in and reminded their fellow protesters not to retaliate.
Meanwhile, a man believed to be in his 40s collapsed while marching to KLCC.
He is believed to have suffered an epileptic attack. He was treated by a medical team immediately and rushed to Hospital Kuala Lumpur.
Later, in front of the Petronas Twin Towers, leaders from PKR, PAS and DAP fired up the crowd of some 10,000 people, calling for GST to be abolished.
Among them was PKR secretary-general Rafizi Ramli who said the 6 per cent consumption tax would cause the rich to be richer while the poor would remain poor.
He added that if it continued to be imposed on the disabled, poor and pensioners, the people would rise up and the Government would fall.
He compared GST to a tax imposed by British colonists in India in the 1930s, which was later abolished.
DAP's Seremban MP Anthony Loke said the large turnout had sent a strong message to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and his Government to abolish GST.
After several other speeches, poem recitals and sing-alongs calling for the abolition of GST, the crowd finally dispersed at about 5.30pm.