Clashes, arrests as wave of anti-Omnibus Law protests erupts across country

CNN Indonesia – October 8, 2020
Riot police form defensive line during anti-Omnibus Law protest in Bandung – October 7, 2020 (Antara)

Jakarta – A wave of protests against the Omnibus Law on Job Creation have broken out around the country since Monday October 5. Workers and students have taken to the streets to urging President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to annul the law.

Demonstrations have focused on government centres in their respective regions in Bandung (West Java), Serang (Banten), Semarang and Yogyakarta (Central Java), Lampung and Palembang (North Sumatra), Samarinda (East Kalimantan) to Makassar (South Sulawesi).

Meanwhile a planned rally in Jakarta at the House of Representatives (DPR) building was blocked by police who arrested around 200 people who they claimed were from an anarchist group.

A clash between protesters and police broke out in the Central Jakarta area of Pejompongan Raya during which a passing police detention vehicle was vandalised by demonstrators.

Actions in several parts of the country ended in chaos including in the industrial areas of Jababeka, Cikarang and Bekasi regency. Six Pelita Bangsa University students were reportedly rushed to hospital following a clash with police.

A demonstration against the Omnibus Law in Bandung also ended in a clash with protesters pelting police with stones and petrol bombs. Police responded by spraying demonstrators with a water cannon and arresting several protesters. Police also fired tear-gas to try and disperse the protest.

An action in Serang city also ended in a clash with police arresting 14 people during a rally against the Omnibus Law. Those arrested were alleged to have created a riot in front of the Sultan Maulana Hasanudin State Islamic University in Serang.

A protest action in front of the Lampung Regional House of Representatives (DPRD) also ended in chaos. Enraged demonstrators succeeded in forcing police back and entering the DPRD complex. A short time later however police succeeded in pushing them back. At least 11 were arrested.

Lampung regional police public relations division head Senior Commissioner Zahwani Pandra Arsyad said that the 11 were local people, high school and university students. They were arrested for being in possession of rocks, lengths of wood and petrol.

Meanwhile police arrested as many as 183 youths and teenagers during a protest action in front of the South Sumatra DPRD in Palembang. Police claimed that those arrested had infiltrated a demonstration by thousands of students from the Youth and Student Alliance for the People (Ampera).

In Semarang, demonstrators centred their rally at the Central Java DPRD complex and the provincial government offices. Protesters from labour and student groups succeeded in breaking through the front gates and entering the office complex. Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo’s offices are located there.

A member of the Semarang municipal district police mobile detectives (Resmob) unit suffered a leg injury when the demonstrators broke through the gates.

In Makassar meanwhile, a student action was marred by a brawl between local residents. Initially, the student group held a demonstration at the South Sulawesi DPRD building which ended in the afternoon.

In the lead up to magrib (sunset prayers) the demonstrators moved off to the nearby flyover where they gathered at the eastern end, while police stood ready with a water cannon on the west side. On the flyover, students could be seen sitting around, singing and shouting slogans opposing the Omnibus Law.

Just after magrib, a clash broke out with local people pelting each other with stones. Although the cause of the clash is unclear it continued for some time with residents seen chasing each other around. The students on the flyover meanwhile remained spectators.

Meanwhile hundreds of students in Kendari, South-East Sulawesi conducted a sweep of shopping centres and hotels looking for workers who they invited to take to the streets and join them in rejecting the Omnibus Law.

The series of protest actions since Monday have continued through to today, Thursday October 8. Labour and student organisations are also planning to hold a demonstration against the Omnibus Law in front of the State Palace in Central Jakarta.

The Indonesian Trade Union Congress Alliance Confederation (KASBI) estimates that around 20 thousand demonstrators from labour, students and civil society organisation will take to the streets and march on the State Palace.

“Yes (there will be an action) at the Palace”, KASBI Chairperson Nining Elitos told CNN Indonesia when sought for confirmation on Wednesday evening.

Aside from Jakarta, protests will again be held by workers and students in Bandung, Bekasi, Tangerang, Lampung, Semarang, Yogyakarta, Surabaya, Makassar and several other parts of the country. (mjo/fra)

[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was “Gelombang Penolakan Omnibus Law di Daerah Berujung Ricuh”.]