Protests against new labor law turn violent across Indonesia

Protesters add a bicycle to a burning metro station during a rally in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. Thousands of enraged students and workers staged rallies across Indonesia on Thursday in opposition to a new law they say will cripple labor rights and harm the environment. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

Credit: Achmad Ibrahim

Credit: Achmad Ibrahim

Protests in many Indonesian cities have turned violent as thousands of enraged students and workers criticize a new law they say will cripple labor rights and harm the environment

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Protests in many Indonesian cities turned violent Thursday as thousands of enraged students and workers criticized a new law they say will cripple labor rights and harm the environment.

Clashes between rock-throwing demonstrators and riot police broke out near Jakarta's presidential palace as police tried to disperse the protesters, including workers and high school and university students.

President Joko Widodo is visiting Central Kalimantan province and was not in the palace.

Police fired tear gas at the protesters from several high schools and universities as they tried to approach the palace compound, turning roads into a smoke-filled battleground. The protesters hurled rocks and bottles.

As night fell, some protesters set fire to a subway shelter in downtown Jakarta, causing the area to turn an eerie orange color. Demonstrators also burned road barriers, several cars, a cinema and damaged several government offices.

Indonesia’s top security minister Mohammad Mahfud told a televised news conference late Thursday the government would not tolerate any action of damaging public facilities and physical attacks on police and community members.

Flanked by the military chief and other top leaders, Mahfud said that those acts are insensitive to the conditions suffered by people who are struggling against COVID-19 and financial difficulties.

“For this reason, for the sake of order and security, the government will take a firm stand against anarchist actions aimed at creating chaos and fear in society,” he said, “The government to carry out legal proceedings against all perpetrators and actors who ride on these anarchist and criminal actions.”

Similar clashes occurred in large cities all over the country, including Yogyakarta, Medan, Makassar, Manado and Bandung.

Organizers have called for a three-day national strike starting Tuesday demanding that the government revoke the legislation.

The Job Creation Law approved by Parliament on Monday is expected to substantially change Indonesia’s labor system and natural resources management. It amended 79 previous laws and was intended to improve bureaucratic efficiency as part of efforts by Widodo’s administration to attract more investment to the country.

The demonstrators say the law will hurt workers by reducing severance pay, removing restrictions on manual labor by foreign workers, increasing the use of outsourcing, and converting monthly salaries to hourly wages.

“We vow to continue returning to the streets until the new law is revoked,” said Andi Khiyarullah, a protest organizer from the Indonesia Alliance’s student executive body.

Police in Jakarta also blocked streets leading to Parliament, preventing labor groups from holding a mass rally there, and detained at least 200 high school students who attempted to reach the compound, Jakarta police spokesman Yusri Yunus said.

“They have been provoked by invitations on social media to create a riot in Jakarta,” Yunus said.

National COVID-19 task force spokesperson Wiku Adisasmito expressed concern about the virus spreading in the crowds of protesters, who stood close together in images from the scenes, many of them without masks.

“We remind you that we are still in a pandemic condition, there is a public health emergency,” he said.

The government reported Thursday that Indonesia's total coronavirus cases have risen to 320,564, including 11,580 deaths, which is the highest death toll in Southeast Asia. Cases in Jakarta alone stood at 83,372 with 1,834 deaths.

Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest economy, is eagerly courting foreign investors as key drivers of economic growth in a nation where nearly half the population of 270 million is younger than 30.

Amid tear gas clouds, plain-clothed police officers detain protesters during a rally in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. Thousands of enraged students and workers staged rallies across Indonesia on Thursday in opposition to a new law they say will cripple labor rights and harm the environment.(AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)

Credit: Tatan Syuflana

Credit: Tatan Syuflana

A police officer fires a projectile towards protesters during a rally against a controversial bill on job creation in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. Thousands of enraged students and workers staged rallies across Indonesia on Thursday in opposition to the new law they say will cripple labor rights and harm the environment. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

Credit: Dita Alangkara

Credit: Dita Alangkara

Protesters throw rocks at police during a rally against a controversial bill on job creation in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. Thousands of enraged students and workers staged rallies across Indonesia on Thursday in opposition to the new law they say will cripple labor rights and harm the environment. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)

Credit: Binsar Bakkara

Credit: Binsar Bakkara

Protesters hurl debris at police during a rally against a controversial bill on job creation in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. Thousands of enraged students and workers staged rallies across Indonesia on Thursday in opposition to the new law they say will cripple labor rights and harm the environment. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)

Credit: Binsar Bakkara

Credit: Binsar Bakkara

A student protester throws a rock at police during a clash in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. Thousands of enraged students and workers staged rallies across Indonesia on Thursday in opposition to the new law they say will cripple labor rights and harm the environment. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)

Credit: Tatan Syuflana

Credit: Tatan Syuflana

Riot police officers are seen through the smashed window of a bus station during a clash with student protesters in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. Thousands of enraged students and workers staged rallies across Indonesia on Thursday in opposition to the new law they say will cripple labor rights and harm the environment. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

Credit: Dita Alangkara

Credit: Dita Alangkara

A student protester kicks a tear gas canister fired by police during a rally against a controversial bill on job creation in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. Thousands of enraged students and workers staged rallies across Indonesia on Thursday in opposition to the new law they say will cripple labor rights and harm the environment. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)

Credit: Dita Alangkara

Credit: Dita Alangkara

Police fire tear gas towards advancing protesters during a rally in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. Thousands of enraged students and workers staged rallies across Indonesia on Thursday in opposition to a new law they say will cripple labor rights and harm the environment. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

Credit: Achmad Ibrahim

Credit: Achmad Ibrahim

A protesters hurls a brick towards police trying to contain a rally in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. Thousands of enraged students and workers staged rallies across Indonesia on Thursday in opposition to a new law they say will cripple labor rights and harm the environment. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

Credit: Achmad Ibrahim

Credit: Achmad Ibrahim

A protester prepares to throw a brick at police trying to stop a rally from advancing towards the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. Thousands of enraged students and workers staged rallies across Indonesia on Thursday in opposition to a new law they say will cripple labor rights and harm the environment. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

Credit: Achmad Ibrahim

Credit: Achmad Ibrahim

A protester tries to hurl a brick towards police trying block protesters from advancing towards the Presidential Palace during a rally in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. Thousands of enraged students and workers staged rallies across Indonesia on Thursday in opposition to a new law they say will cripple labor rights and harm the environment. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

Credit: Achmad Ibrahim

Credit: Achmad Ibrahim

Police in riot gear try to block protesters from advancing towards the Presidential Palace during a rally in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. Thousands of enraged students and workers staged rallies across Indonesia on Thursday in opposition to a new law they say will cripple labor rights and harm the environment. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

Credit: Achmad Ibrahim

Credit: Achmad Ibrahim

A police officer fires his tear gas launcher during a clash with student protesters in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. Thousands of enraged students and workers staged rallies across Indonesia on Thursday in opposition to the new law they say will cripple labor rights and harm the environment. (AP Photo/Trisnadi)

Credit: Trisnadi

Credit: Trisnadi

Plain-clothed police officers detain a student protester during a clash in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. Thousands of enraged students and workers staged rallies across Indonesia on Thursday in opposition to the new law they say will cripple labor rights and harm the environment. (AP Photo/Bukbis Bey)

Credit: Bukbis Bey

Credit: Bukbis Bey

A police officer fires a projectile during a rally against a controversial bill on job creation in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. Thousands of enraged students and workers staged rallies across Indonesia on Thursday in opposition to the new law they say will cripple labor rights and harm the environment. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)

Credit: Tatan Syuflana

Credit: Tatan Syuflana

A protester taunts a line of police during clash in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. Thousands of enraged students and workers staged rallies across Indonesia on Thursday in opposition to a new law they say will cripple labor rights and harm the environment. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)

Credit: Tatan Syuflana

Credit: Tatan Syuflana

Police push back protesters during a rally in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. Thousands of enraged students and workers staged rallies across Indonesia on Thursday in opposition to a new law they say will cripple labor rights and harm the environment. (AP Photo/Tatan Syuflana)

Credit: Tatan Syuflana

Credit: Tatan Syuflana

Protesters react as police use a water cannon to disperse them during a rally against a controversial bill on job creation in Medan, North Sumatra, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. Thousands of enraged students and workers staged rallies across Indonesia on Thursday in opposition to the new law they say will cripple labor rights and harm the environment. (AP Photo/Binsar Bakkara)

Credit: Binsar Bakkara

Credit: Binsar Bakkara

Protesters gather around a burning metro station during a rally in Jakarta, Indonesia, Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020. Thousands of enraged students and workers staged rallies across Indonesia on Thursday in opposition to a new law they say will cripple labor rights and harm the environment. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

Credit: Achmad Ibrahim

Credit: Achmad Ibrahim

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