A large rally against the abuse of landowners’ rights outside the House of Representatives building in Jakarta turned rowdy on Thursday when the crowd, numbering at least 1,000, knocked down the front gate leading to the building and attempted to go inside.
One thousand police and security officers armed with riot shields and backed up by water cannons secured the front gate, temporarily blocking access either in or out. Media personnel inside the complex were barred from exiting.
At least two people were arrested as a handful of protesters managed to slip through police lines and make their way into the grounds, leading police to chase them down.
The protesters, largely made up of farmers and representing some 45 different community organizations, also threw chunks of wood and stones while shouting and chanting slogans calling for the resignation of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s administration.
Participants expressed anger at the land conflicts that have resulted in the recent killing of villagers in Mesuji and the police’s heavy-handed repression of protests in Sape, West Nusa Tenggara.
“We want the land of the people to be returned to the people. Fishermen, farmers and workers also need to be taken care of. We’re not supposed to be ignored and while the government favors the businessman,” one union spokesman said in a speech.
“Let’s fight,” he continued. “Don’t let ourselves get treated like this. SBY-Boediono should resign.”
The protesters had traveled to the House complex after staging an earlier rally outside the State Palace.