10 million vs 40,000: Organizers and police differ yet again on attendance numbers at 212 Grand Reunion

Thousands of Indonesian Islamists attend a rally in Jakarta on December 2, 2018, to commemorate the second anniversary of a demonstration which led to the fall of Jakarta’s then Christian governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama. (Photo by PRANANDITYA / AFP)

Numbers don’t lie, but it seems like somebody has been lying about the number of attendees at 212 events for the third year running.

Depending on who you believe, yesterday’s 212 Grand Reunion, which marked the two-year anniversary of the mass protest that led to the fall of former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama, was attended by anywhere from tens of thousands to millions of people.

We may never know for sure, but, consistent with previous events, the organizers of the 212 Grand Reunion gave the higher end estimate of that number. According to them, a group equivalent to the entire population of Jakarta flooded the National Monument (Monas) and its surrounding areas yesterday.

“Back then [in previous 212 events] there were up to 7 million people. But now, according to information from the media who used their drones, there could be 8 to 10 million people in attendance,” 212 Grand Reunion head organizer Bernard Abdul Jabbar told reporters yesterday, as quoted by Warta Kota.

Bernard did not specify exactly which media outlet gave the 10 million estimation.

Contradicting Bernard’s claim, the Jakarta Metro Police gave a much lower estimate: 100,000. Meanwhile, the National Police gave an even lower estimate.

“Around 40,000 people,” National Police Spokesman Dedi Prasetyo told Jawa Pos.

“They (the organizers) targeted [for millions] but in reality, on the field, they didn’t even reach one-tenth of that.”

After the original 212 protest on December 2, 2016, the organizers claimed that 7 million people were in attendance while media reports put the number at around 500,000. For last year’s first 212 anniversary event, the organizers claimed the event was attended by 7.5 million people, but the police said only 30,000 people actually showed up.

At any rate, yesterday’s 212 Grand Reunion went smoothly by all accounts, save from one participant’s death, allegedly due to exhaustion, and numerous reports of attendees blatantly showing support for 2019 presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto (Islamic mass organizations like Muhammadiyah and Nahdlatul Ulama previously urged Muslims not to attend the 212 Grand Reunion over suspicions that the movement has been politicized).

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