More than 250 arrested as Indonesia’s post-election violence enters second day

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The white toothpaste smeared in lines across their faces looked like war paint, but it was actually there to offer scant protection against the clouds of tear gas that sailed through Jakarta’s city centre.

Key points:

  • Six protesters were killed in the first night of violence on Tuesday, including a 15-year-old boy
  • Indonesian police arrested more than 250 people in the second night of violence
  • The President’s opponent, Prabowo Subianto, will take his legal challenge to court on Thursday

At least 10,000 strong, the screaming protesters carried Indonesian flags on bamboo sticks, which doubled as weapons against anyone they perceived as the enemy.

Demonstrators first took to the streets of Indonesia’s capital on Tuesday night, after the election results were released ahead of schedule in the early hours of Tuesday morning, announcing the incumbent President Joko Widodo as the clear winner.

First, they directed their rage at police, throwing rocks, Molotov cocktails and fireworks over the razor wire, as tear gas cannisters sailed back in response.

Fire crackers explode near protesters during clashes with police in Jakarta.

Next, they destroyed property, some ripping bricks from the pavement and smashing them into projectile-sized pieces, while others set piles of hard plastic barricades ablaze, sending columns of acrid black smoke high into the night sky.

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Then, after several hours of running street battles that saw countless victims taken away by speeding ambulances, the rioters turned on the media.

An ABC crew was set upon by a mob without warning, and only saved from serious injury or worse by unarmed Indonesian soldiers who ushered them to safety in a nearby hotel.

Indonesia is no stranger to convulsions like this, but it’s been many years since it has seen rioting on this scale and of this ferocity.

This is no longer just a noisy tantrum about an election that saw Mr Widodo returned with a margin of 17 million votes against his opponent.

Supporters of the losing candidate, former General Prabowo Subianto, now want revenge after six protesters were killed on Tuesday night — including a 15-year-old boy who was apparently shot in the head.

“Jokowi anjing!” they shouted through their facemasks, using the President’s nickname to compare him to a dog.

A supporter of Indonesian presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto throws rock at riot police.

Jakarta Metropolitan Police said they have arrested 257 people across the two nights of violent demonstrations.

Still, the protesters are a minority among the country’s 193 million registered voters.

A hashtag condemning the violence, #TidakAtasNamaSaya, which translates to “Not in My Name”, has gone viral on social media as moderate Indonesians speak out against the rioters.

And there is a clear distinction between those who came with violent intent, and those who rallied to pray and peacefully protest against the election result.

Ahmed Sudirwan says he quit his job three days ago to take part in the rallies in Jakarta to protest the election result.

A journalist who said he used to work for the BBC, Ahmed Sudirwan, quit his job three days ago to take part in the rallies.

“I have come to this realisation, actually my conscience, that we Indonesians must stand up,” he told the ABC.

“We are telling the world, we Indonesians are loving people but we know this is our country and we must stand up for our country.”

He said he wasn’t looking for trouble. But he also demonstrated a disconnect with the violent reality raging in his streets, claiming there had been “no violence” committed by the protesters.

Riot police officers on guard during a riot near Indonesia's election supervisory agency.

When the ABC put to him that we had seen and filmed protesters throwing stones at police he claimed they were merely unknown “provocateurs”.

“Provocateurs can be anyone. Don’t ask us. Ask the policemen,” he said.

The rumour that police were responsible for sparking these riots was just one of many that prompted authorities to limit the sharing of photos and videos on social media.

Police disperse protesters in Jakarta after the result of the presidential election was announced.

One young man even earnestly offered the ABC the absurd suggestion that “Chinese Police” had been brought in to shoot protesters.

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Even as Joko Widodo’s victory looked certain, opponent Prabowo Subianto was on a victory lap of his own. For voters, it was nothing out of the ordinary.

It’s a sign of what the authorities are up against.

President Widodo urged calm and forgiveness in the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, but he is also taking a hard line against those disturbing the peace.

“We will not give any space to those who try to damage our country, to damage our unity,” he said.

“I will not tolerate anyone who wants to disturb security and the democratic process … especially those who have incited riot[s].”

“There is no other way. Military and police will act firmly, according to the applicable law.”

His opponent Mr Prabowo is mounting a legal challenge to the election result, which is expected to be heard by Indonesia’s Constitutional Court on Thursday.

The retired general has urged all sides to refrain from more violence, and appealed directly to police and the military.

“My brothers, officers who are still active in the TNI [Indonesian National Armed Forces] and police, I beg you to please remember that the uniforms you’re wearing and the food and the weapons you have are paid for by the people,” Mr Prabowo said.

“The people would like you to protect them. You are all our hope.”

Indonesian police rest near burnt-out buses in Jakarta.