Counter-protests and clashes at banned #2019GantiPresiden event, Ahmad Dhani’s hotel sieged

Screenshot: @th3p4sund4n / Instagram
Screenshot: @th3p4sund4n / Instagram

Now that all the players are in place for Indonesia’s 2019 presidential election, the reaction to a protest movement to unseat incumbent President Joko Widodo seems to portend a very heated campaign season between now and when votes are cast in April.

The controversial #2019GantiPresiden (Replace The President in 2019) opposition movement was meant to hold a declaration rally in the East Java capital of Surabaya on Sunday, but one of the movement’s most high-profile participants, musician-cum-politician Ahmad Dhani met fierce opposition the day before the event when counter-protesters arrived at his hotel and prevented the former “Indonesian Idol” judge from attending a press conference for the protest or even leave his hotel.

In a video posted to social media by Dhani of himself and his entourage from inside the hotel, Dhani tells other #2019GantiPresident supporters about the situation and why he can’t leave the hotel, pointing to the counter protesters that can be heard chanting outside. He says it’s funny that an opposition group that is protesting those in power and doesn’t have the backing of the government, would be protested like this. He then calls them “idiots” (in English) multiple times.

A long-haired man sitting next to Dhani says, “Banser are idiots”, referring to the youth wing of Nahdlatul Ulama (NU) Indonesia and the world’s largest Muslim organization. That particular statement seems to have really riled up the counter-protesters and eventually Dhani said that he was asked to leave the city by the police and forced to return to Jakarta on Sunday.

The Surabaya Police had already announced before the weekend that they had not given the #2019GantiPresiden event their permission and said they would not since it could lead to “disruptions of public order”. They cited past incidents at the opposition movement’s events, such as one earlier this year in Jakarta in which participants were accused of hate speech and intimidation.

Despite the lack of police permission, many  #2019GantiPresiden supporters still showed up at Surabaya’s iconic Tugu Pahlawan (Hero’s Monument) on Sunday morning during the city’s crowded Car Free Day. According to media reports, police tried to disperse them as they arrived in small groups, but when a large mass formed they started marching around the monument together.

A group of counter-protesters eventually converged on the scene leading to violent clashes in public that police immediately attempted to disperse. Further clashes took place at a nearby mosque before police eventually put a stop to the violence around noon, ordering supporters from both sides to leave the area in separate directions.


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Banser officials said that the organization had no official political stance on the #2019GantiPresiden movement but acknowledged that many of their members opposed what they characterized as a “hate movement” (indeed, many of the counter-protesters did seem to be wearing Banser outfits). President Joko Widodo’s recently announced running mate, Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) leader Ma’ruf Amin, is also the head of NU’s advisory council.

After Dhani returned to Jakarta on Sunday, he has reportedly cancelled an event he had planned to hold this week to announce his candidacy as the Gerindra party candidate for the Electoral District of East Java 1 (Surabaya-Sidoarjo). Despite the weekend’s events, Dhani said that he was still optimistic about his chances in the election.

Dhani rose to notoriety outside of Indonesia in 2014 when he made international headlines for a music video, made in support of presidential candidate Prabowo Subianto the first time the Gerindra chairman went up against Jokowi in 2014. The video went viral and was quickly pulled from Youtube because Dhani wore a Nazi uniform in it.

Despite his stated support for Prabowo in this election, Dhani said he preferred to focus on the #2019GantiPresiden movement rather than directly campaigning for Prabowo.

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