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Police fire tear gas at students

Dow Jones News Service - April 2, 1998

Jakarta – Police fired tear gas at rock-throwing students after a big anti-government protest turned violent, witnesses said.

At least 40 students from Gajah Mada University in Yogyakarta, 420 kilometers east of Jakarta, were treated at nearby hospitals for gas inhalation, as well as injuries sustained when police used sticks to disperse the crowd of several thousand.

Witnesses said the protesters gathered on the campus of the university, the oldest in Indonesia, and called on President Suharto to quit amid the worst economic crisis in three decades.

Several hundred baton-wielding police moved in when demonstrators attempted to march into an adjacent street.

Witnesses said some students retaliated by throwing rocks after police fired at least six canisters of tear gas. Some police threw rocks back at the students.

One canister hit a television cameraman at the scene.

"I saw students being beaten by ratan sticks. The police fired tear gas. Then the students and the police started throwing rocks at each other," said one student Dwi Hartanto.

"Some students were taken away with their heads bleeding."

A minivan, apparently owned by a senior police officer, was overturned by some protesters before they retreated back inside the campus.

Witnesses said the area around the campus perimeter was littered with rocks after the four-hour protest.

Police confirmed that a demonstration took place but declined to comment further. There were no reports of arrests.

Thursday's demonstration was that latest in a series of dozens of students protests against President Suharto's government in the past month.