Alya Nurbaiti, Jakarta – What began as a peaceful protest against the Job Creation Law turned into riots on Tuesday as violent opposition to the controversial law continued in the capital city.
Unidentified people reportedly threw bottles and stones at police officers near the Arjuna Wiwaha Monument, also known as the Horse Statue, in Central Jakarta, just as protesters from the Islam Defenders Front (FPI), the National Movement to Safeguard Fatwas (GNPF) and the 212 Alumni Brotherhood started to disperse.
At 3:45 p.m., the protesters, mostly dressed in white and wearing caps, began to leave the location. Central Jakarta Police chief Sr. Comr. Heru Novianto appealed to the masses to remain calm while leaving.
"This is a peaceful protest. Now the rally is over, let's return home peacefully. FPI group, please keep the situation [under control] and do not riot," Heru said to the masses.
However, a group of people without attributes refused to leave the area. Clashes erupted when the mob reportedly started to hurl mineral bottles and stones at the police barricades, which the police countered with tear gas fired near the Horse Statue.
Clashes also erupted in the nearby Tugu Tani area, also in Central Jakarta, at 5 p.m., where the rioters set alight various goods in the middle of the road, kompas.com reported.
Near the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle, meanwhile, the mob allegedly tried to seize control of a pickup.
Jakarta Police chief Insp. Gen. Nana Sudjana said police had apprehended around 500 people who had allegedly provoked the protesters to start the clash. He said he suspected they had infiltrated the masses to instigate riots by throwing objects at police personnel.
"There were around 600 people trying to provoke the mass. We [Police] stood by at first, but they kept throwing [things] at security personnel. At that point, we pushed and apprehended them," he said.
Earlier in the day, thousands of protesters of the FPI, GNPF and 212 Alumni had gathered on Jl. Medan Merdeka Selatan in Gambir, Central Jakarta, – around 1 kilometer from the Presidential Palace, kompas.com reported. They recited prayers and voiced demands for the government to revoke the omnibus law. They also called on President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo to step down.
"The omnibus law will cause Indonesian citizens to be colonized in their own country. We're here to defend the workers," Muslim preacher Sugi Nur Raharja said in his speech during the demonstration, as reported by Kompas TV.
The 212 Alumni Brotherhood is known as the driving force behind the so-called 212 rally in December 2016 to demand the imprisonment of then-Jakarta governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama for alleged blasphemy.
The protestors followed the members of labor unions and university students that had vowed to continue to stage protests to voice their opposition to the highly contentious law.
According to the Jakarta Police, around 12,000 police and military personnel stand ready to ensure public safety and security in the capital. Heru said 650 police officers and soldiers had been deployed to the Horse Statue area.
Some public transportation services were suspended on Tuesday as a precautionary measure in anticipation of disruption caused by the large-scale protest. The MRT only served trips from the Lebak Bulus Grab Station to Blok M BCA Station, while the Transjakarta bus service halted operations across the city.