The number of unlicensed street vendors in Central Jakarta's Tanah Abang shopping district has been a problem for years, with the area so crowded with sellers on most days that many of them end up spilling out onto the streets, adding to the district's interminable traffic jam woes.
After the Jakarta administration built a new skybridge designed in part to take the sellers off of the streets, it appears that getting them up there has become a challenge in and of itself due to the district's notoriously infamous preman (street thugs).
Yesterday, a very peculiar video showing law enforcement officers running away from preman in the area made the rounds online. Around a dozen Satpol PP (Public Order Agency) officers can be seen fleeing Tanah Abang's Blok B as dozens of premans chase after them, some of them throwing sticks and stones at the officers.
To be fair to the Satpol PP officers – who aren't as well trained or armed as the regular police – they shouldn't have to put their lives in jeopardy so running away from the threat of the premans was a sensible thing to do. Luckily, there were no reports of any of the officers getting injured.
According to Satpol PP Tanah Abang district head Aries Cahyadi, 60 Satpol PP personnel were deployed to relocate street vendors who were still selling underneath the skybridge, as the agency has been doing for the past two weeks under the instruction of Governor Anies Baswedan.
While the officers were helping street vendors pack up their goods, Aries said the preman came and attacked the officers.
"They had pent-up anger towards the officers so they attacked. At the time, we didn't fight back, we were trying to de-escalate [the situation]," Aries said, as quoted by Kompas.
Soon after the events shown in the video, police from the Tanah Abang precinct came and arrested three people suspected of inciting the violence against the Satpol PP officers.
Governor Anies said he regretted the attack on the Satpol PP and urged Tanah Abang street vendors and preman to honor an agreement they made that they would clear the streets and relocate them to the skybridge.
He also urged an end to violence in the district, saying that the government was open to civil discussion with vendors who feel that relocating to the skybridge would be detrimental to their business.