Jakarta – Police have arrested a student protester carrying a toy gun during a demonstration against French President Emmanuel Macron near the French Embassy in Jakarta on Monday.
"It is, indeed, just a toy [gun]. But it was inappropriate to bring such a thing during a situation like this," Central Jakarta Police chief Sr. Comr. Heru Novianto said.
Police also arrested 10 students under 17 years of age who were involved in the protest.
Protesters from several groups, including the 212 Alumni Brotherhood (PA 212) and the firebrand Islam Defenders Front (FPI), gathered near the embassy building to condemn Macron's recent statement on Islam.
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.
Around 1,000 to 1,500 people joined the protest that started at around 1 p.m. on Monday, Heru said.
The protest took place around the same time as another one staged by thousands of workers who rallied against the controversial Job Creation Law at the Arjuna Wijaya monument, also known as the Horse Statue, near the State Palace in Central Jakarta.
The 10 arrested students were neither part of mass organizations nor labor confederations that staged the protests, the police said.
Authorities deployed a joint force of 7,766 personnel from the police, the military, the Jakarta Public Order Agency (Satpol PP), the city's Transportation Agency as well as firefighters to the protest locations and put 8,000 more personnel on stand-by.
Police closed and cleared the area of Jl. MH. Thamrin in front of the embassy, preventing protesters from staging the demonstration directly in front of the building. The protesters began to disperse at around 4 p.m., kompas.com reported.
Macron has been at the center of criticism after worldwide Muslim communities condemned his statements that many deemed to be insulting Prophet Muhammad and Islam.
In his speech earlier this month, Macron outlined new measures to combat "radical Islamism" and terrorism, aiming to "liberate French Islam from foreign influences". He also defended the right of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo to publish cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad.
His remarks have sparked protests and even led some Muslim countries to call for a boycott of French products.
President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has also criticized Macron, saying "freedom of expression should not be exercised in ways that tarnish the honor, sanctity and sacredness of religious values and symbols." (trn)