Friday, March 30, 2012

Day of Rage Grips Indonesia as Protests Come to a Head

Shots were fired, dozens of people were arrested, some were badly injured and offices and facilities were burned and vandalized across the country on Friday as protests against the proposed fuel price increase reached their fevered peak.

Security forces doubled their presence on a day that saw more than 80,000 people take to the streets nationwide, according to protest organizers.

Tear gas canisters and rubber bullets were fired in front of the House of Representatives in South Jakarta after protesters refused to disband after the sun set.

Hours earlier, protesters took down the three-meter-high gates at the House complex and demanded to see lawmakers who were inside the building deliberating the proposed hike.

The police immediately pushed the demonstrators back, then set up barricades to prevent them from occupying the building.

Around 7 p.m., the police moved to disperse the crowd, which was blocking two lanes of the inner-city toll road, by setting off fireworks. While most protesters fled, some fought back using smashed up concrete dividers and Molotov cocktails, prompting officers to respond with rubber bullets, tear gas and water canons. The Jakarta Police said 21 people were arrested.

National Police Chief Gen. Timur Pradopo said the crackdown “was in line with procedures.”

In Salemba, Central Jakarta, students burned tires and blocked roads to protest the arrest of 54 of their peers on Thursday.

They also accused the police for raiding the offices of the Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI) and the Indonesian Administrative Foundation (YAI) for sheltering protesters.

In Bima, West Nusa Tenggara, a 23-year-old student, Khairuddin, was shot in the thigh and had to be rushed to the hospital for massive blood loss and injuries.

His peers suspected that the police were using live rounds, but provincial police spokesman Adj. Sr. Comr. Sukarman Husein insisted officers had only used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the crowds.

“[Protesters] were blocking the road and disrupting public activities,” the officer said.

In Samarinda, East Kalimantan, and Medan, protesters set fire to local police stations, vandalizing state property as they marched toward their rally points. One protester in Medan was arrested.

In Makassar, South Sulawesi, students attacked the governor’s office, pelting windows with rocks and rocking the office’s main gate until it collapsed.

In Bogor, one student protester, Abdul Basyid, was rushed to the hospital after the police allegedly beat him. That prompted clashes between protesters and officers, with rocks and taunts exchanged. Eight people were arrested. Jakarta Globe

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