Medan – A protest action commemorating International Labour Day or May Day in Medan, North Sumatra ended with the Medan metropolitan district police (Polrestabes) arresting 14 protesters from the People's Resistance Alliance for the Destruction of Tyranny on Saturday May 1.
Medan Legal Aid Foundation (LBH) labour and urban poor division head Maswan Tambak said that those arrested by police comprised seven women and seven men.
The arrests began when scores of people were holding an action on Jalan Djuanda Medan. After conveying their aspirations, police officers suddenly moved in and arrested the 14.
According to Tambak, there were no grounds for the repressive action by police since the protest action has proceeded peacefully. In addition to this, the participants did not violate Covid-19 health protocols.
"According to testimonies from comrades on the ground they didn't create an uproar. [But] suddenly they were just taken away. We asked the Medan Polrestabes on what the grounds the arrest were were. But the police were unable to explain the reason for the 14 people's arrest. So we're at a loss", Tambak told CNN Indonesia on Saturday evening.
"After the shift to the slogan 'Promoter of Presisi' [predictability, responsibility, transparency, justice], it turns out that the police haven't changed. We are urging the Indonesian police chief to evaluate his offices. We understand that the police's job is to maintain security. But the police must understand, the ordinary people also want to articulate their wishes", said Tambak.
In addition the arrests, protesters from the Medan People and Workers Accumulation of Anger Alliance (AKBR) were also intimidated by rogue police officers. An action which was planned to be held at the Medan city zero kilometre point had to be shifted to the Gatot Subroto traffic circle.
"There were police who recorded demonstrators by sticking their mobile phones in the face of women protesters. It really wasn't ethical, and we consider that threatening. The actions of these rogue police cannot be allowed to become normalised", said Women Today (PHI) founder Lusty Ro Manna Malau.
There was also intimidation when a group of mostly women demonstrators gathered to wait for other protesters to arrive. Malau even said that the intimidation tended towards sexual harassment.
"There were several women demonstrators who were verbally abused with [remarks like] 'flirt with me', then there were some who stuck their tongues out. This was a form of harassment against us. Several rogue officers also made sexist remarks at the women demonstrators", she said.
There has still not been any official clarification from police about the arrests and other accusations. CNN Indonesia has sought confirmation from Medan metropolitan district police chief Senior Commissioner Riko Sunarko but as of writing this report there has been no response.
A number of other labour groups chose to celebrate May Day 2021 with North Sumatra Governor Edy Rahmayadi. Several trade unions, business people and the governor took part in social activities and a lucky draw.
"Even though on the one had I am a business person, because I'm the governor I'm also part of the North Sumatra people. Just the same as you. So I'd like you to contribute ideas and suggestions for the North Sumatra which we love", said Rahmayadi.
Rahmayadi asked that the momentum of May Day not just be used for street protests. He said he wants to focus on dialogue or seminars on the improvement of workers' skills, expertise and human resources, including also on rules for resolving disputes between workers and employers which need clear regulations and solutions. (fnr/kid)
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "14 Peserta Aksi May Day di Medan Ditangkap Polisi".]