Activists in Jakarta evacuated after violent mob surrounds pro-democracy event and accuses participants of communism

An event that took place in Jakarta yesterday with the theme of demokrasi terepresi (democracy repressed) and darurat demokrasi (democracy in a state of emergency) was shut down yesterday after a violent mob surrounded the event’s venue, forcing police to disperse the protesters with tear gas and water cannons so that the event participants could be safely evacuated.

As indicated by the tweet above from a propaganda account claiming to be part of the “Muslim Cyber Army”, the angry mob attacked the event on Sunday, called “Asik Asik Aksi” and held by the Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation (Jakarta LBH), because they said it was supporting the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI).

Despite taking place more than 50 years ago, the mass killings that took place from 1965-1966 and are estimated to have claimed the lives of 500,000 to 1 million people, remains a highly taboo topic in in Indonesia. Carried out in retaliation against a supposed PKI assassination plot to overthrow the government, activists and survivors who want to discuss the truth behind the genocide are often accused of communism themselves.

Such was also the case on Saturday, when a historical seminar held by LBH Jakarta and the 1965 Murder Victims’ Research Foundation (YPKP 65) was shut down by the police for allegedly not having a permit. LBH Jakarta argued that no permit was necessary for the kind of seminar they were holding but the police, along with numerous protesters who showed up at the event were adamant that the event be shut down.

Sunday’s “Asik Asik Aksi” event was actually meant in part to be a protest against the police’s repressive actions from the previous day, but the focus was not on 1965 but artistic expressions of democracy in the form of music poetry and stand-up comedy.


The event, which took place at the offices of LBH Jakarta in Menteng, lasted until 9pm. At the end of the event, dozens of NGOs including Indonesian Legal Aid Foundation (YLBHI), the Commission on Missing Persons (KontraS), Indonesia Corruption Watch (ICW), and Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi) came together to release a statement on the darurat demokrasi in Indonesia.

But after the event was over, participants found themselves trapped inside the building by an angry mob that had formed outside that accused the event organizers of supporting the PKI. CNN Indonesia estimated the crowd size to be several hundred people, all of whom chanted things like “Destroy the communists!”


Even the military, traditionally the group most highly opposed to discussions about 1965, tried to intervene during the tense situation, with Central Jakarta Military District Commander Edwin Adrian Sumantha also addressing the crowd and asking them to let the participants go home safely.

Eventually, around midnight police decided to call in heavy vehicles including Barracudas armed with water cannons to try and force the crowd to disperse. At around 1am, the crowd started to riot, allegedly triggered by the sight of some people trying to leave the building.

Police fired a number of warning shots into the air and both tear gas and water cannons were used on the crowd who finally started to leave the area, eventually allowing the participants to be evacuated safely. Police have also arrested at least four people for their involvement in the riots.

LBH Jakarta and YLBHI released a press statement today thanking security forces for the protection that they provided and also stating that fake news was behind last night’s mob.  

“Clearly hoaxes have been broadcast, propagating accusations that were made up. The instructions for attacking LBH are systematic and widespread saying that this was a PKI event where we were singing Genjer-Genjer (a song associated PKI) when nothing like that took place. We are worried this was done by those who want to create chaos and destruction,” the organizations said in the statement.

Is there any evidence of the angry mob having been manipulated by hoax news? Twitter user Kevin Pahlevi‏ offered this screenshot of the same message being repeated by numerous (presumably bot-run) accounts at ecactly the same time.


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