By The Nut Graph team

THE 1 Aug 2009 anti-Internal Security Act (ISA) street rally attracted big crowds scattered around the heart of Kuala Lumpur. The throng of people easily numbered 20,000 but could have been more.

Demonstrators sported headbands, T-shirts and banners that decried the draconian law. They called for the Act, which allows for indefinite state detention without trial, to be repealed. Artists built a monstrous effigy to drive the point home.

Police stationed in front of Masjid Jamek, one of the three gathering points of anti-ISA demonstrators. The media, bystanders, and presumably protesters also waited in anticipation (Pic by Gan Pei Ling)

Most also brought wet towels and salt — household remedies for tear gas. Perhaps due to the practice they've had with large-scale street protests in the last three years, the authorities' reaction was strong and methodical.

On 31 July, a day before the planned demonstration, roadblocks went up on major routes into the city, slowing traffic and drumming up public sentiment against the Gerakan Mansuhkan ISA (GMI)-organised rally. As crowds massed ahead of the march towards the palace, police officers checked bags and handcuffed anyone found harbouring anti-ISA material. The Legal Aid Centre's Puspawati Rosman was arrested, apparently for distributing leaflets detailing citizens' rights with regards to police arrests.

As the march got underway, riot police and the Federal Reserve Unit (FRU) halted crowds by strategic cordons and zealous use of the water cannon. Public transit was diverted; the Masjid Jamek STAR-LRT station, for example, was closed due to "technical problems".

By the end of the day, law enforcement had detained a total of 589 individuals, such as Subang Member of Parliament R Sivarasa and 16-year-old Faizudin Hamzah.