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 fought back, hurling rocks and bottles.
An angry mob burned a traffic police post at an intersection near the palace, while other protesters set fires to tires and fiberglass road barriers. As night fell, some protesters set fire to a subway shelter in downtown Jakarta, causing
International civil society groups say they are facing intensifying pressure even in democracies as elected governments wield political, legal and financial weapons to halt their work.
Amnesty International’s suspension last week of its Indian operations is the latest casualty in what critics view as a widening crackdown from Budapest to Brasília by elected but autocratic leaders seeking to entrench their power.
The trend has fed broader fears of a tilt towards authoritarianism worldwide. Activists fear that the loss of campaigning on injustices by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) will add to factors such as online disinformation and the Covid-19 pandemic that already alienate people and make it easier for politicians to tighten their grip.
“An atomised society is a society that’s easier to control — that’s the rationale behind cracking down on NGOs,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of US-based Human Rights Watch. “That was a first principle of dictatorship — but