10 June, 2009

'All black' in ( old ) town.

Dressed in black, the colour of protest, 200 activists sat at cafe tables quietly drinking coffee — black, of course. Bewildered, police stood outside and watched the coffee drinkers without interfering.

The protest at three cafes in Kuala Lumpur was their way around a ban on unauthorised protests. It was the latest twist in a row over the governing Barisan Nasional coalition’s seizure of power in Perak.

“Police were coming down hard on us and so we used this unique way to protest and tell people to demand an election in Perak,” said Wong Chin Huat, a protest leader and academic at the city’s Monash University campus. “We managed to send the message across.”

A spokeswoman of Old Town Cafe said it was unfair of protesters to use the chain’s outlets for the protest. “We have loyal patrons who are unhappy with so many people suddenly appearing all wearing black, which we associate with death. This is very bad for business.”

Undeterred, pro-opposition NGOs announced they would repeat the protest tomorrow — at seven Old Town outlets in the capital and Penang. The protesters, who announced the location of the protests via the social networking website Facebook, urged the coffee company not to close the outlets.

“We are only drinking coffee and paying for it,” one protest leader said. “They make money, we get our message across.”

This time, police will be waiting for them. “We are monitoring the targeted outlets and if necessary will arrest any person wearing black as they approach the outlets,” a police spokesman said.

No Old Town White Coffee will be closed tomorrow despite the 1BlackMalaysia campaign to drink 'kopi-o' (black coffee) at its outlets in a symbolic gesture to mourn the 'death of democracy' in Perak.

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