JAKARTA, Oct 1, 2019, The Jakarta Post. A nationwide wave of protests against the government and the House of Representatives continued on Monday as the legislative body was scheduled to hold its last plenary session for the 2014-2019 term. University students, who had spearheaded a number of demonstrations last week, decided not to join the street rallies on Monday, supporting only smaller protest actions around campuses, reported The Jakarta Post.
In Jakarta, thousands of protesters – including activists, workers and high school students – gathered in the Senayan area to march toward the legislative compound in Senayan in Central Jakarta at midday on Monday.
Their demands still revolve around halting the passage of several controversial bills, including the pending Criminal Code (KUHP) revision.
Monday’s march, however, did not reach the compound’s front gate, as police had installed a blockade around 100 meters from the complex. Demonstrators attempted to break the blockade but to no avail.
“We came here with the people because the government and the legislature will issue regulations that disadvantage the common people,” Congress of Indonesia Unions Alliance (KASBI) chairwoman Nining Elitos told journalists on Monday.
Protests also broke out in other cities of the country, including Jambi, Yogyakarta, Denpasar in Bali and Blitar in East Java.
Thousands of protesters held a demonstration on a junction of Jl. Gejayan in Yogyakarta, where students and prodemocracy activists had staged protests in 1998. Monday’s peaceful protest was the second to occur on the junction after a first one on Sept. 24.
Gadjah Mada University student Dwiki Aprinaldi, 22, was among the protesters in Gejayan on Monday. “Apart from supporting friends by making memes, I believe this street protest will be effective for us to voice our opinions.”
Student representatives from Trisakti University in Jakarta and Serang Raya University in Serang, Banten, said students from their respective universities had not participated in protests on Monday as they were focused on supporting actions in other regions.
Most students, said Trisakti University student leader Edmund Seko, were holding speeches around their respective campus.
“Meanwhile, we are also focusing on our friends who are still under arrest by the Jakarta Police. We hope that today’s protest will run peacefully,” Serang Raya University student representatives Diki Beno Revo told The Jakarta Post.
Dozens of students were reportedly unaccounted for after joining protests on Sept. 24. Many believe that some of them were detained by police.
The police moved early on Monday by standing guard in several places to prevent people living outside of Jakarta from the joining protests.
A photo posted by a Twitter user using the account @AntiTesisAktion shows female police officers gathering around several people wearing high school uniforms at the Daru train station in Tangerang.
Another Twitter user, @iswan214, posted a video showing people allegedly going to Jakarta to join the protests who were stopped by police at the Bogor train station in West Java.
National Police spokesperson Brig. Gen. Dedi Prasetyo dismissed claims that the force had conducted sweeps to prevent people from joining the protests.
“This is our operation to maintain public order and security, an early prevention measure against potential public disorder that could happen any time,” Dedi told the Post by text message on Monday afternoon.
When asked whether the police were specifically targeting people intending to join protests in Jakarta, Dedi answered shortly: “[The target is] anyone posing a potential [threat] to public order.”
Democracy Advocacy Team slammed the police and schools for preventing the general public as well as students from joining the protests. The team claimed it had reports from the public that police personnel had — among other measures – raided trains and stations and arrested students prior to the protests, hindering them from reaching the House compound at Senayan.
In Jakarta, police set up a double blockade around 100 meters from the legislative compound, frustrative students’ efforts to reach its front gate. At 3 p.m., demonstrators tried to break the blockade.
“[Holding protest] actions to convey our opinion is a human right. We call on all parties, including law enforcement personnel, to refrain from acting brutally and not following standard procedures,” the team said in a statement.
As of 6 p.m., the protesters in Jakarta were clashing with security personnel, with police firing tear gas toward demonstrators.
Bambang Muryanto from Yogyakarta, Ni Komang Erviani from Denpasar, Asip Hasani from Blitar and Jon Afrizal from Jambi contributed to this story.