Jakarta – Protesters from the All Indonesia Student Executive Council (BEM SI) have begun to pack into the Horse Statue area in Central Jakarta to hold a demonstration marking nine years of President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's administration on Friday October 20.
The demonstrators arrived at around 3.30 pm wearing the attributes of their campuses and respective organisations and bringing a command vehicle. "Long live students, long live students", said one of the speakers from the command vehicle.
"For Nine years there has been nothing good, agrarian conflicts everywhere, customary land, plantations eliminated by national satanic projects [a play on the term national strategic project, PSN). Jokowi must be given a red report card", added the speaker.
Several students could also be seen taking off their shoes and almamater jackets and getting into the pool underneath the Horse Statue. They then put up a banner opposing the October 16 ruling by the Constitutional Court on the minimum age limit for presidential and vice presidential candidates.
"Christian University of Indonesia students reject the Family Court's ruling", read the banner.
The police meanwhile could be seen standing guard behind concrete barriers installed on Jalan Medan Merdeka Barat.
Central Jakarta metro police chief Senior Commissioner Susatyo Purnomo Condro said that as many as 1,611 police, TNI (Indonesian military) and Jakarta provincial government personal had been deployed to secure the demonstration.
Earlier, in an invitation for the demonstration that was circulated, it said that the demonstration is being held in response to the Constitutional Court's ruling on the minimum age limit for presidential and vice presidential candidates, which is seen as perpetuating the practice of corruption, collusion and nepotism (KKN).
The action also coincides with nine years of the Widodo administration.
"This action also coincides with the momentum of nine years of Jokowi serving a president. BEM SI is of the view that Jokowi has betrayed reformasi [the political reform process that began in 1998]. This has been proven by the setbacks and depravity in terms of the law, human rights, the commercialisation of education, repression by the authorities, agrarian conflicts and investment that disregards the ordinary people's rights", read the invitation.
Students break through barricades
The demonstrators were initially divided into two sections on the right and left of the Horse Statue. Chaos broke out when the protesters on the left broke through the barricades and damaged the razor wire.
The police responded by appealing to the students to stay calm and be well behaved. The plea however was ignored. "Stay calm, don't damage the barricades. We are facilitating your aspirations", said a police officer from the command vehicle.
The police, who were on guard behind the barricade immediately blocked the protesters that broke through the barricades. They then took away several demonstrators who were suspected of being provocateurs.
The protesters on the rights side of the Horse Statue meanwhile were not provoked into similar actions and continued giving speeches in an orderly manner.
Condro confirmed that police had detained two people for breaking through the barricades. "Two people were arrested who broke through the barricades", he said at the location.
The situation however began to heat up at around 4.20 pm when students wearing red almamater jackets began setting fire to tyres and knocked down concrete barricades in front of the Horse Statue.
The demonstrators put two motorcycle tyres on the razor wire and then poured petrol on them. A short time later they set fire to the tyres and threw things over the concrete barriers.
In addition to this, other demonstrators knocked down concrete barriers closing off access towards the nearby State Palace. Several others could also be seen throwing stones and bottles in the direction of the police.
The police officers on guard behind the barricade could be seen getting ready to anticipate further anarchic actions by the students.
Meanwhile a number of students who were taking turns to give speeches from the command vehicle asked the protesters to retrain themselves and not be provoked.
"Those on the rights side of the command vehicle, we're trying to maintain the action", said one of the speakers from the command vehicle.
15 students arrested
In addition to the two students detained earlier, a representative of the students said that another 13 were also arrested. They said that 10 people were arrested at the station before the action began and three during the action, although they did not explain at which train station the arrests were made.
"Ten were arrested at the station, three arrested during the action. [We're] asking that they be released immediately", they said.
Meanwhile Presidential Staff Office (KSP) Principal Expert Yohanes Joko, who had came out to meet with the protesters, gave assurances that the three people arrested during the action had been released. He said he would check on the other ten.
Joko also asked the demonstrators to protest peacefully. "The Pak [Mr] President is currently overseas. Friends, we are asking for you understanding. So earlier I was told there were 13 people [arrested], the report I have just received said three people. I have seen [for myself] that three people are being released now", he said.
"Regarding the 10 people, I have asked the student representatives to join me in checking where they were arrested, if indeed it is true I will ensure that if indeed they did not violate the law they will be released", he added.
Condro meanwhile said that the 10 students were currently being questioned a Metro Jaya regional police headquarters.
Dialogue with presidential staff
After all of the 15 demonstrators had been released, a number of student representatives held a dialogue with Joko. During the dialogue, they handed over a study into nine years of president Widodo's administration, which Joko promised to follow up on.
"I have received the study on nine years of Pak Jokowi, I will pass it on to my superior [Presidential Chief of Staff retired] General Moeldoko, after he returns to Indonesia I will convey it to him", he told the student representatives.
Following this the protesters began to disband and leave the location of the demonstration. Traffic flow in the vicinity of the Horse Statue gradually returned to normal although the barricades installed in the direction of the state Palace had still not been removed.
- See: Collapse of Constitutional Court's legitimacy amid the shadow of political dynasties. CNN Indonesia – October 17, 2023
[Abridged translation by James Balowski compiled from six articles by CNN Indonesia on October 20. The original title of the lead article was "Massa Mahasiswa Menyemut di Patung Kuda, Demo 9 Tahun Rezim Jokowi".]