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Indonesian students fight police

Associated Press - April 25, 1998

Irwan Firdaus, Jakarta – Police with clubs and riot shields battled rock-throwing student protesters on a campus in eastern Indonesia today. It was the second violent demonstration against President Suharto in as many days.

At least 10 students were injured in the fight in Mataram, capital of the island of Lombok, medical workers said. Lombok lies next to the resort island of Bali and like it is a popular destination for foreign tourists.

For weeks, students have staged daily protests for democratic and financial reform amid the worst economic crisis of Suharto's three-decade reign. The crisis, brought on by currency turmoil, has sent prices and unemployment soaring.

More demonstrations are turning violent as protesters, emboldened by their growing numbers, try to push their way off the campuses in defiance of a military ban on street rallies.

That was the case at Mataram University, where more than 1,000 students tried to march to the local government building to press their demands.

Fighting broke out after police blocked the marchers, said Chaerudin, a campus security guard, who like many Indonesians uses only one name. He said police fired warning shots – it was not clear whether they were blanks or live ammunition.

In another protest, near Jakarta, 1,500 students from several universities demonstrated peacefully against the government.

Their key demand was the resignation of Suharto, a former army general who has been in power since the 1960s and retains firm control of the government and the military.

"We won't ever get tired of demanding that Suharto quit," said Syaiful, an engineering student at the demonstration at the Bogor Agriculture Institute, 25 miles south of the capital.

On Friday, students threw a dozen gasoline bombs at police in Medan, 1,250 miles northwest of Jakarta. Police fired back tear gas.