Dozen injured in violent clash between students and troops
JAKARTA (JP): Dozens of students, three photographers and one reporter were injured in violent clashes between protesting students and security personnel in Central Jakarta on Thursday afternoon.
No gunshots were heard during the pitched battles, which allegedly broke out after students began to throw stones at security forces at the busy Matraman crossroads.
At least 32 students, including three females, are being detained at the headquarters of the Jakarta Police. They are charged with staging a rally without giving prior notification to the police as required by the existing law.
The one-hour clash, which occurred hours before United States Secretary of State Madeleine Albright arrived in the capital, began at around 2 p.m. when a group of some 150 students grouped in the United Students Committee, a loose alliance of 10 student organizations, marched from the University of Indonesia campus on Jl. Salemba to Proclamation Monument on Jl. Proklamasi.
On their way to the monument, the students met another group of protesting students, also numbering around 150, at the Matraman crossroads.
The two groups marched together to the monument, where they aired their demands for a transitional government and the abolition of the Armed Forces (ABRI) dual sociopolitical role.
The situation became tense when dozens of police and soldiers attempted to encircle and arrest the protesting students.
Attempting to escape, most of the students ran along Jl. Matraman, heading back toward the Matraman crossroads, some 600 meters away.
At the crossroads a larger force of police and soldiers were already on alert.
The situation worsened when some of the students began to throw rocks at security personnel stationed at the crossroads. The troops began to chase the students, striking those who were caught.
The soldiers and police were not deterred by demands from some of the military police at the site not to beat the students.
The soldiers and police chased students onto the campus of ABA-ABI Foreign Language and Banking College, into the office of a travel agency and a musholla (small mosque), where the students were attempting to hide.
"They (security personnel) struck the students on the campus even after the students asked them for forgiveness," said Syarifudin, a student at ABA-ABI, who witnessed the incident.
One of the doors of the musholla was broken by the troops in their attempts to catch the students. Blood was also seen on the floor of the musholla.
Two photographers, Ardilles and Dimas, were also beaten by the troops before being released after showing their press cards.
Photographer Eddy Purnomo from AFP also suffered light injuries after being hit by stones.
AFP reported last night that Eddy was injured by rocks thrown by students.
A veteran reporter from Pos Kota daily, Totok Irianto, was rushed to Husada Hospital with severe head injuries. He was allegedly beaten by security personnel after attempting to stop them from beating the students.
The clash on Thursday was the first violent battle between protesting students and troops in the capital since the Dec. 17 battle in which some 80 students and 14 security personnel were injured.
A smaller incident took place on Thursday after the troops had dispersed.
Supported by local teenagers, some of the students threw stones at two traffic policemen who were directing traffic at the Matraman crossroads.
The two officers managed to escape without injury, but their motorcycle was badly damaged by the students.
A member of the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI Perjuangan), Sabam Sirait, became involved in the battle when he attempted to prevent soldiers from beating the students.
Ely Salomo of the United Students Committee condemned the violence committed by the members of ABRI and demanded the immediate release of the detained students.
"If the arrested students are not released by midnight on Thursday we will hold a massive protest as soon as possible at the headquarters of the Jakarta Police," he said. (01/emf)