Indonesian police fire tear gas at pro-Papua demo

Police surround an injured protester during a brief clash at the rally.
Police surround an injured protester during a brief clash at the rally.PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (AFP) - Police fired tear gas at a hundreds-strong crowd hurling rocks on Tuesday (Dec 1) during a protest in Jakarta against Indonesian rule over the eastern region of Papua, with a lawyer saying that over 100 demonstrators had been detained.

Several hundred protesters, mostly university students from Papua, took part in the demonstration to mark the anniversary of the region's declaration of independence in 1961, two years before Indonesia took control.

About 400 police in riot gear were standing guard at the protest by a roundabout in downtown Jakarta, which turned violent as demonstrators hurled rocks and police responded by firing tear gas and chasing protesters.

"They have no permit to stage a protest here, so we are dispersing them," said Central Jakarta police chief Hendro Pandowo, insisting the police had not used excessive force. Protest organisers insisted they had notified authorities.

Veronica Koman, lawyer from Jakarta Legal Aid Foundation, speaking on behalf of the protesters, said at least 114 had been detained by police, with some stopped before even reaching the site.

Journalists at the scene saw demonstrators being put into police vehicles and driven away.

Police refused to confirm how many protesters had been detained.

The remaining demonstrators were later driven from the scene in buses and trucks, but said they were voluntarily going to join the detained protesters at police stations to show solidarity.

A low-level insurgency has simmered for decades in Papua, where local groups are fighting on behalf of the mostly Melanesian population, who are a different ethnicity from most Indonesians.

Jakarta took control of the region, which forms half of the island of New Guinea, in 1963 from former colonial power the Netherlands.