A peaceful march by some 100,000 people protesting alleged blasphemy by Jakarta’s governor disintegrated into chaos Friday as angry crowds attacked police barricades around the Presidential Palace, set fires and looted stores.
Security personnel fired teargas and used water cannons to hold back surging protesters who hurled objects at officers and set fire to two police trucks, eyewitnesses said.
Separately, in north Jakarta, a mob ransacked a minimarket and a flower shop, and groups of people tried to enter the housing complex where Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama lives.
An elderly man died but his cause of death was not yet known, AFP quoted Jakarta police spokesman Awi Setiyono as saying. Twelve people including eight police were injured, he said.
The violence erupted in the evening, after Islamic groups marched in central Jakarta calling for Ahok to be prosecuted for an allegedly blasphemous remark made in September. Ahok, a Christian member of Indonesia’s ethnic Chinese minority, is running for re-election in February.
Indonesian authorities were bracing for the possibility of the protest turning violent, and had deployed some 20,000 security personnel to safeguard the streets of central Jakarta.
Just after midnight, speaking from the Presidential Palace, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said he regretted that the demonstration had ended in violence.
“As a democracy, we cherish the process of expressing aspirations through a demonstration that was carried out today in a peaceful and orderly way,” he said, thanking Islamic leaders and security personnel who had helped keep the situation under control.
“But we deplore the events after evening prayers when it was time to disband and rioting broke out. And here we see infiltration by political actors exploiting the situation,” he said. He did not elaborate on who those “actors” might be.
Full story: BenarNews
Nosa Normanda and Zahara Tiba contributed to this report.
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