The Jakarta Post
Clashes broke out on Tuesday between the Jakarta Police and the Papua Students Alliance (AMP) at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle, Central Jakarta, during a rally demanding independence for West Papua.
Hundreds of AMP members and 400 police officers were involved in the clashes after the police tried to disperse the crowd using tear gas.
The students claimed they had planned a 'peace rally'.
'We had to disperse the crowd because they held the event without prior notification, which we required to plan the security measures for them and other road users,' said Jakarta Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Mohammad Iqbal.
Iqbal added that before the tear gas was fired, the police had given three warnings to the protestors to disperse. The students, however, ignored the warnings and insisted on marching to the National Monument (Monas).
Before the clash, the AMP had planned to stage a two-part rally, which is held every Dec. 1, to deliver four demands to the government.
According to AMP spokesman Abby Douw, the rally members called for the government to hold a referendum on independence for Papua. They also demanded the government shut down all multinational corporations that cause environmental damage to Papuan land.
In addition, they wanted the government to recall all military forces from Papua, as well as disbanding all 'politicized' government institutions such as the Special Unit for the Acceleration of Development in Papua and West Papua (UP4B).
However, the first stage of the rally erupted in violence after the police forced the students to disperse, according to Muhamad Isnur, a lawyer from the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta) who gave legal counsel to the AMP during the rally.
Isnur disputed Iqbal's statement, saying that the demonstrators had faxed a written notification to the police. He said such procedures were used for rallies such as Kamisan (a weekly silent protest in front of the Presidential Palace). He also said the police did not give any warnings before they fired the tear gas.
Isnur insisted that the Papuan students did not need any permission from the police to hold Tuesday's event as they had planned to conduct a peaceful rally.
He said their intentions were proven when the students voluntarily dispersed and got into the police trucks after the police's warnings.
Before the rally, the police arrested 22 participants from Tangerang on the toll road at Senayan, South Jakarta. Iqbal said they were arrested for allegedly assaulting two police officers, First Insp. Habib and Brig. Wiwit, in Gading Serpong, Tangerang regency.
Iqbal explained that the officers had been trying to persuade the students not to join the rally because of the lack of notification. The students refused and attacked the officers, inflicting several injuries to the arms and faces of the policemen. They then fled in a public minivan.
Iqbal said the police had arrested 306 rally participants who were released on Tuesday evening. Nonetheless, they detained two students for further investigation into the assault in Tangerang.
Tuesday's clash prompted a strong protest from the Alliance of Independent Journalists (AJI) after the organization received a report that the police had assaulted and intimidated two foreign journalists from Australia's ABC and Al-Jazeera.
According to a press release from the AJI, the police beat the ABC's Archicco Guiliano and grabbed a mobile phone belonging to Al-Jazeera's Stephanie Vaessen because they were recording the authorities dispersing the rally. The AJI said the police had ordered the journalists to delete the recordings.
AJI head Suwarjono said the police had yet to fully understand the role of journalists. He called on Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Tito Karnavian to investigate the alleged violation of press freedom.
The Jakarta Police did not comment on the AJI's statement. (agn)
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