Indonesian police have broken up a protest action against the extension of Special Autonomy (Otsus) in Papua that took place on Jalan Imam Barjo in the Central Java provincial capital of Semarang – and they blamed covid health protocols.
Before being broken up, the protesters from the Papuan People’s Petition (PRP) were repeatedly warned by police not to continue the action on the grounds that the crowds of protesters were violating health protocols during the covid-19 pandemic, reports CNN Indonesia.
“We ask that you obey the law and comply with the rules. Please disperse voluntarily because there is still a pandemic and we must be disciplined about health protocols, don’t gather and create crowds,” Semarang metropolitan district deputy police chief Assistant Superintendent Iga Nugraha told the protesters at the demonstration on Friday.
“Once again, please understand.”
Despite being asked to negotiate, police continued to ask the demonstrators to disperse immediately.
Earlier, the protesters had tied themselves together in a barricade using ropes to prevent police from breaking up the action.
Because the demonstrators insisted on going ahead with the action, police finally took action and tried to disperse them. A clash was unavoidable and the protesters fought back resulting in police arresting several people who were alleged to be the provocateurs.
The action rejecting the extension of Special Autonomy for Papua was held as a reaction to protests by sections of Papuan society which are part of the PRP who feel that they have not gained any benefits from the Special Autonomy status which has had no impact on the Papuan people’s welfare.
Translated by James Balowski of IndoLeft News. The original title of the article was “Pandemi, Polisi Bubarkan Aksi Tolak Otsus Papua di Semarang”.