Thousands of protesters in Jakarta amid fury over Christian governor
JAKARTA – ReutersTens of thousands of Muslims poured into central Jakarta on Dec. 2, to protest against the city’s governor, a Christian accused of insulting the Koran, fuelling tension that has alarmed Indonesian President Joko Widodo.
Widodo has blamed “political actors” for exploiting the popular fury over Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama to destabilize his government. Underlining those concerns, police announced on Dec. 2 that 10 people had been detained for alleged treason.
A sea of white-clad protesters had built up around the National Monument by mid-morning and, with no more room there, the roads around it filled up with protesters chanting, praying and carrying banners demanding that Purnama be jailed.
Police officials estimated that at least 150,000 people, including many who travelled to Jakarta from towns and cities across the island of Java, had gathered under quickening rain.
Some reports put the number of protesters at more than 200,000.
When asked what his message was for the military and police, Widodo told reporters at an event some distance from the rally: “Stand guard so that everything runs safely.”
National news agency Antara said 22,000 police personnel would be deployed to avoid a repeat of violence that flared during a protest led by hardline Islamists last month when more than 100 people were injured in clashes with police.
Jakarta Governor Purnama, an ethnic Chinese popularly known as Ahok and a long-time ally of the president, is running for re-election in February next year against two Muslim candidates.
The contest has generated high political tension for weeks, with rumors of plots to undermine Widodo and scupper his chances of winning a second term in 2019.
Police have warned against attempts to destabilize the government.