Yawning Bread. August 2007

Police declare joggers an "illegal assembly"




This first section is fictional:


* * * * *

This part on, it's facts-based: 

Miak Siew noticed that there were undercover cops hanging around the area as soon as he arrived for the Pink Run, an event that was to involve a 4-kilometre run/jog/walk along the scenic Singapore River on the morning of Saturday, 11 August 2007. It was to be just a social event catering to the interests of gays and lesbians whose passion was for sports and outdoor activities, under the umbrella of Indignation, the Pride Season.[1]

When a fair number of the participants had arrived, the police started up their video camera to film the group. Then a Kelvin Yeo -- whom Miak could recognise for having shadowed other gay events recently -- stepped forward and asked who the organiser was.

Ethan Lim, a medical doctor, said he was. Kelvin and a female associate then asked him for his identity card, and to step to one side to talk.

Miak was in no way surprised. He had heard from me the night before that the police were going to cause trouble.

At around 11 p.m. Friday (the night before), while I was on my way home, the same Kelvin Yeo had called me. By the second sentence, I knew he was being used as a messenger boy by his superiors. He adopted a stern tone of voice completely at variance with the way he had spoken with me before. More than that, his sentences were so formal, I reckoned he was reading from a prepared script, and that the phone conversation was likely being recorded.

He began by identifying himself as being from the Compliance Unit, then asked if I was the organiser of the Pink Run, scheduled for the following morning.

I said, "I am not the organiser."

This immediately rendered the rest of the prepared script utterly irrelevant, but he soldiered on nonetheless.

He then asked me if I knew who the organiser was. I said it would be Adlus, since that was what was declared on the web.

He soon went back to the script and said that he had to inform me that the Pink Run would be against the law -- something about the Miscellaneous Offences Act, to which I replied (to the effect of), "Why are you telling me? I am not the organiser."

He then asked me if I had the phone number of the organiser, or knew how to contact them. I said it was difficult at that moment as I was in a car. In any case, I usually communicated with them via email. 

Would I contact them and tell them that it was against the law? I said, "Don't depend on me" since it was already so late. Moreover, it's their job to contact the organiser if they wanted to, not mine. 

It went back and forth like that for a while and then paused. The next part reprised the same sentences from earlier, which was how I concluded he was reading from a script, but this time was in relation to another event, the Scavenger Hunt. It went something like this:

"Are you the organiser of the Scavenger Hunt?" he asked.

"No, I'm not." I said.

"I have to inform you that the Scavenger Hunt is against the law."

"Don't tell me. I'm the wrong person to inform. I already told you I am not the organiser."

"Who is the organiser?"

"I'm sure you can see for yourself that it's Adlus. Go and find them yourself on the web. They should have an email address somewhere."

"Can you tell them that it is against the law?" he asked with no inflection of voice, such that it sounded like a command.

"Well, I will try to contact some people I know, but I will not guarantee that I can get the message across. It's already late. It's your job to find them yourself."

"It is against the law -- a contravention of the Miscellaneous Offences Act..."

"Don't bother telling me. I am not the organiser."

* * * * *

So there they were early on Saturday morning, 10 of them. Most were lurking in the shadows, but it was obvious to Miak, Ethan and the rest that they were the police. One of them in the shadows might have been the officer in charge. According to one of the runners, that guy was quite senior in the police force. The runner recognised him as an old classmate.

After identifying himself, Kelvin Yeo informed Ethan that the run would be considered an offence under the Miscellaneous Offences Act. Ethan asked him to cite the specific section, but Kelvin was unable to. Instead, the officer said it would be considered an illegal assembly.

At some point, Ng Yi-Sheng, one of the runners, walked up to join Ethan, to act as a witness to the conversation. He was shooed away by the police.

Since the police had declared it an illegal assembly, Ethan told Kelvin he would cancel the Pink Run. "But as individuals, they can run, right?"

Both Kelvin and the female officer beside him said yes.

Ethan then went back to the main group and told them what had transpired. The Pink Run was officially cancelled, but as individuals, they could run as they pleased. All 39 present elected to do so. They left their bags, etc, with a volunteer whose role was to watch over them, and started off in staggered subgroups.

Meanwhile, the police continued filming, and didn't stop until the entire group had come back to the starting point about half an hour later.

As you can see from the photo, many wore pink. In fact, they had printed more T-shirts than they needed, so Ethan gave one to Kelvin Yeo. As a souvenir.

Yawning Bread 




  1. It was originally supposed to take place in the Botanic Gardens, but a week before, the National Parks Board had said a run within the park would not be allowed, along with the Pink Picnic scheduled for 9 August (see Picking on a picnic). Hence the running route had to be changed. The Not Pink Picnics took place anyway, see Pity the heliconias
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