Tens of thousands join peaceful rally in central Jakarta to protest US Jerusalem decision

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A road leading to the protest site - National Monument in central Jakarta - was packed with vehicles on Dec 17, 2017. ST PHOTO: WAHYUDI SOERIAATMADJA
Another road leading to the protest site at the National Monument in central Jakarta. ST PHOTO: WAHYUDI SOERIAATMADJA
People from all walks of life attended the rally held on Dec 17, 2017. Mr Mashadi, a 65-year-old retiree, arrived at the protest site - National Monument in central Jakarta - at around 6am.

JAKARTA - Around 80,000 people on Sunday (Dec 17) took part in a rally at the National Monument (Monas) in central Jakarta to protest against US President Donald Trump's controversial decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

It was the biggest protest in Indonesia since Mr Trump's move on Dec 6 to reverse decades of US policy.

The turnout of the Defend Palestine rally grew from 40,000 at around 8am local time( 9am Singapore time) to 80,000, said Jakarta police spokesman Colonel Argo Yuwono. The rally ended shortly after noon.

The protest was peaceful but rows of police stood guard behind coils of barbed wire outside the US embassy which is just 100 m away from the protest site.

In response to Straits Times' query, Col Argo said 20,000 police as well as military and municipal government security troops were deployed to ensure security.

Sunday's rally was organised by Indonesia Ulema Council (MUI) and several Islamic organisations.

"We urge all countries to reject the unilateral and illegal decision of President Donald Trump to make Jerusalem Israel's capital," Anwar Abbas, the secretary general of the Indonesian Ulema Council, told the crowd which included people from all walks of life.

"We call on all Indonesian people to boycott U.S. and Israel products in this country" if Trump does not revoked his action, Abbas said, reading from a petition due to be handed to the US ambassador in Indonesia.

Many of the protesters were clad in white and waved Palestinian flags.

One of the protesters, 30-year-old entrepreneur Lukman Abdul Jabar, told The Straits Times:"We want Palestine to be freed. We support them. We demand world leaders including Jokowi not only to condemn but prepare peace troops to ensure things are fixed."

The US president on Dec 6 made a controversial decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital and moved the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to the historic city regarded as holy by Jews, Christians and Muslims.

More than a hundred police officers stood guard outside the US embassy in Jakarta on Dec 17, 2017. ST PHOTO: WAHYUDI SOERIAATMADJA

Mr Trump's announcement has been met with angry protests around the world, including in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Israel captured East Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War and declared the entire city as its capital in 1980, a move condemned by the international community to this day.

The Palestinians hope that part of the city will be the capital of a future independent state.

For decades major countries have avoided taking sides in the conflict and kept their embassies in Tel Aviv instead.

Since Mr Trump's controversial decision on Dec 6, Indonesians have held several street rallies in different parts of the country, the world's most populous Muslim-majority nation.

On Dec 10, 6,000 protesters gathered outside the American embassy in Jakarta. The protest was led by Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) secretary-general Mustafa Kamal and its president Sohibul Iman. The PKS is an Islamic political party that is part of the opposition coalition in Indonesia.

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On the same day, a separate group comprising activists from Masyarakat Relawan Indonesia, or the Indonesia Volunteer Society, gathered at the Hotel Indonesia roundabout - the heart of the main thoroughfare in central Jakarta that is closed every Sunday for Car-Free Day - to voice their opposition.

On Dec 15, protesters again gathered outside the US embassy in Jakarta, burning US flags and demanding that President Joko Widodo order the US ambassador to leave the country.

A protest was also held on the same day in Cirebon, West Java, where people gathered outside a main mosque to condemn the Trump administration's Jerusalem decision.

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