The grand rally started at 3pm Friday, with a sea of humanity all around the capital’s Shahbagh intersection.
The rally began with the recitation of a ‘Chorompotro’ from a platform erected atop a pick-up truck at the intersection, called ‘Prajanma Chattar’ by the protesters.
Blogger Shahidul Islam Raju read out the ‘Chorompotro’ and the national anthem was recited after that. Thousands of people at the rally again voiced the death sentence demand for all war criminals.
Since the morning, people from all walks of life were seen heading towards the grand rally venue from various parts of the capital in numerous vehicles and in small groups carrying the national flag, musical instruments, banners and placards.
The gathering spread from Kataban in the north to Shishu Park in the south through the rally venue, and from Ruposhi Bangla Hotel in the east to the Dhaka University’s Faculty of Fine Arts areas in the west until 2pm, and the number of people joining the protest and voices chanting slogans only rose as the rally time approached.
At one point, all banners of various organisations were removed from the rally area except the placards and banners reading the demand for death sentence for all war criminals. Organisers said the move was aimed at giving the rally an ‘apolitical’ look.
Around 10:30am, an announcement from the main stage virtually declared a ban on all rallies and processions of the Jamaat-e-Islami and its student affiliate Islami Chhatra Shibir. “Jamaat and Shibir have announced to bring out processions at different places in the capital Friday. Friends, we will give them a mob beating if they do so.”
The people shouted in support of the announcement.
After a while, organisers of the rally informed the people of the protest programmes and mass rallies held at Shaheed Minars in different districts all across the country, and the gathering expressed a thunderous joy.
Freedom fighters came carrying the red flag of the Freedom Fighters Command Council. The processions were welcomed and congratulated with applause as soon as they entered the Dhaka University area.
Many came with their children to attend the rally Friday, the weekly holiday.
The Fine Arts students were seen walking around with colours and brushes, drawing the national flags and writing slogans on the faces and bodies of the enthusiastic protesters.
Since morning, staff bodies of the Agrani Bank and the ZDH Shikder Medical College, and Engineering University Employees Parishad and the Janata Bank Officers Club also expressed their solidarity with the movement.
The air at Shahbagh was filled with slogans against the war criminals and demanding death sentence for them.
The Muktijoddha Sangsad Santan Command (MSSC) activists were seen running a mass signature campaign in front the BIRDEM hospital and BSMMU over the demand.
The Dhaka WASA provided clean drinking water for the demonstrators, while the Dhaka City Corporation came with mobile toilets.
Hours after the International Crimes Tribunal-2 pronounced life in prison for Jamaat-e-Islami Assistant Secretary General Abdul Quader Molla Tuesday, an internet activists’ body, Bloggers and Online Activists Forum, rejected the verdict as ‘too light’ and called for a protest demonstration at the intersection.
The protest resonated among the masses and turned into a huge gathering of people who joined the movement demanding death for the Jamaat leader. The Shahbagh blockade entered the fourth straight day Friday, while the demonstrations sparked a string of protests all around the country in the last two days.
Hundreds of protesters have stayed there day and night for the last three days at the busy intersection singing, reciting poems, shouting slogans, screening films and making speeches.
Students from schools, colleges and universities sporting the nation flag on their heads started thronging the area since Thursday morning.
Leaders of several political parties and other organisations visited the scene and expressed solidarity with the protestors in the last two days amid growing popular buzz.
The protestors, however, snubbed Awami League Joint Secretary General and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Special Assistant Mahbub-ul Alam Hanif on Thursday afternoon. He was denied the opportunity to deliver a speech and hurled with water bottles.
Awami League Presidium Member Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury had also visited Shahbagh Wednesday on night, but she also returned without making a speech.
However, several Awami League leaders earlier visited Shahbagh and expressed their solidarity with the protestors.
As soon as Hanif left the spot, an announcement from the main stage said no political leader would be allowed to speak at Friday’s rally.
The demonstrators have already announced that they would not budge until the demand is met.