Jakarta. May Day protesters burned flower boards for outgoing Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama which have filled City Hall since quick count results indicated a surprise loss for Ahok in the Jakarta election runoff earlier this month.
The incident caused an intense atmosphere at City Hall, where many local and foreign tourists had come to see the popular flower boards, which have become a hit on social media.
It started when workers from the Metal, Electronic and Machinery Workers Union, or FSPLEM, numbering in the hundreds, marched on Jalan Medan Merdeka Selatan in Central Jakarta on Monday (01/05).
A car in the parade made a sudden halt in front of City Hall and a rally leader came out to order the protesters to drag the flower boards off the sidewalk and stack them in a pile in the middle of the street.
The unidentified rally leader then ordered the workers to set the flower boards on fire. He spoke into his megaphone saying that the flower boards have become a public nuisance.
“Friends, let’s kick off May Day by cleaning up City Hall from these flower board rubbish. Throw them into the pile and burn them,” the man said.
Dozens of protesters followed the man’s instruction. They poured gasoline on the flower board pyre, and burned it.
Security personnel tried to prevent the workers from lighting the fire, but they were outnumbered.
“We have made history. We can clean up Jakarta,” the really leader yelled.
He also said he would take personal responsibility for the incident. “Who wants to arrest me? Arrest me. I will take responsibility,” the man shouted again into his megaphone.
But not long after, he instructed the protesters to stop burning the flower boards and retreat.
Following the incident, security around City Hall was beefed up. The head of Jakarta’s municipal police, or Satpol PP, Jupan Tampubolon, gave orders to his men to close the gates of City Hall to prevent protesters from burning flower boards inside its yard.
The May Day rally brought traffic on Jalan Medan Merdeka Selatan to a standstill, as thousands of workers filled the street and prevented vehicles from passing. JakartaGlobe