Pradito Rida Pertana, Yogyakarta – Protesters calling themselves the People's Struggle Front (FPR) held an action commemorating International Women's Day (IWD) today in front of the governor's office in the Central Java city of Yogyakarta. The action however was marred by an altercation between the protesters and local people.
A speech given to commemorate IWD triggered friction between the demonstrators and local people because the action was held in the Malioboro shopping district in the centre of the city.
After reading out a speech expressing their disappointment with the regime of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, the protesters disbanded peacefully.
One of the people who were involved in the friction, Arif (20), said that from the start of the FPR action all of the participants wore masks. But upon arriving in front of the governor's office they claimed they were attacked by local people.
"[I] was hit without any clear reason as they shouted 'pandemic'. I tried to protect my head. There were three or five people hitting me", said Arif when speaking with journalists near the site of the protest on Jalan Suryatmajan, Kemantren Danurejan, on Monday March 8.
Arif took part in the action in order to commemorate IWD. He suspects that the quarrel broke out because of Gubernatorial Regulation (Pergub) Number 1/2021 on the Control of Expressing Views in Public in Open Spaces which prohibits demonstrations at strategic locations in Yogyakarta.
"Yes, perhaps it's because of the Pergub, perhaps. Because democracy is an important issue, it's nonnegotiable, and democracy is protected by the state and is a part of human rights. Every human must be able to convey their views without interference, discrimination or violence by any party whatsoever", explained Arif.
Meanwhile one of the local people who took part in harassing the demonstrators, Heru, said that what local people object to is demonstrations being held in the Malioboro area because they are concerned it will disturb tourists.
"It's from the desire to make a living. If there are demos tourists will be afraid, right, that's the logic. Especially given the situation right now, making a living is difficult, so please don't do all kinds of things, tourists will be afraid if there are demos", he said.
When sought separately for confirmation, Yogyakarta Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) control and operational section head Edhy Hartana said that they had allowed the demonstration to go ahead on the condition that they apply health protocols. The demonstration ended at around 4.30 pm.
"We allowed 10 people in order to maintain health protocols. We didn't permit them to go in but if it's in front then they can convey their aspirations for 10 minutes. There was no written permission to enter the governor's office", said Hartana.
Hartana admitted that some local people objected to the demonstration because of the Corona virus pandemic and the Enforcement of Restrictions on Public Activities (PPKM). The Satpol PP has appealed to those wishing to demonstrate to respect other residents.
"In the end it was peaceful, from residents it was anticipated meaning they're allowed to convey their aspirations here. In the end it was only 10 people because of the pandemic so there were no crowds, just the representatives", he said. (ams/sip)
[Translated by James Balowski. The original title of the article was "Aksi Hari Perempuan Internasional di Area Malioboro Sempat Diwarnai Ricuh".]