Protest in Jakarta against anti-democratic electoral law ends in clash

Source – September 25, 2014
Protesters burn tyres during rally against RUU Pilkada at DPR building - September 25, 2014 (Tempo)
Protesters burn tyres during rally against RUU Pilkada at DPR building - September 25, 2014 (Tempo)

Persiana Galih, Jakarta – A protest action at the entrance to the House of Representatives (DPR) building in Central Jakarta opposing the Draft Law on Regional Elections (RUU Pilkada) ended in chaos. Hundreds of workers and students clashed with police after they blockaded Jl. Gatot Subroto on Thursday September 25.

“They forcibly broke up the rally because they said that we did not have a permit”, said action coordinator Komeng. The protesters blockaded the road because not one DPR member was prepared to meet with them. Since 2pm they had been asking for assurances from the DPR that the RUU Pilkada [that would see the end to the direct election of regional heads] would not be ratified.

The blockade started at 2.30pm. Hundreds of protesters and a pickup truck took up the entire road so no vehicles were able to pass. The action continued for around 15 minutes up until the clash broke out.

The clash between the students and police occurred in the middle of the crowd and became increasingly chaotic after police deployed hundreds of officers to drive back the demonstrators. The protesters who initially blockaded the road were gradually forced beck in the direction of Grogol, West Jakarta.

“The police attacked first. I saw that this was the root cause of the clash”, said Komeng. According to Tempo’s observations, the demonstrators pelted the police with bamboo sticks and rocks, which forced the police to stop the flow of passing vehicles.

The clash ended at around 5.15pm after the action coordinator called on the protesters to follow police orders. After disbanding, several demonstrators were still furious, shouting and giving the police the fingers up.

Jakarta Metro district police chief Senior Commissioner Hendro Pandowo said that the protesters had to be forced back because they were obstructing the flow of traffic. “It was clearly a violation because they disturbed public order”, he said.

According to Pandowo, police repeatedly asked the action coordinator to disband the demonstration by 5pm at the latest but they tried to argue for more time. “We have regulations, protest actions are not allowed after 6pm”, he said. A request by the demonstrators to spend the night in front of the DPR building was also refused.

[Translated by James Balowski.]