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Indonesia police arrest hundreds as protests turn violent

Indonesian police fire tear gas during a protest outside the parliament building in Jakarta, Indonesia, on September 30, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Police in Indonesia have arrested hundreds of people during and following street protests against a proposed bill that turned violent in the capital, Jakarta.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets in Jakarta on Monday against a proposed bill that includes dozens of legal changes, including making it illegal to insult the president and reducing the authority of a key body fighting endemic graft. It also criminalizes out-of-wedlock relationships.

As members of the Indonesian house of representatives were holding their last session at the end of their term on Monday, protesters rallied to reach the parliament building.

Police, however, blocked streets leading to the parliament.

​Indonesian riot police fire teargas during a late night demonstration in the capital, Jakarta, on September 30, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Clashes then erupted between the police and the protesters, who set fire to tires and pelted police with rocks, gasoline bombs, and firecrackers on blocked streets. Police also fired tear gas and used water cannons to disperse them.

“So far, we have detained 519 rioters from yesterday’s demonstration,” Jakarta police spokesman Argo Yuwono said on Tuesday.

Security forces are, however, bracing for more unrest on Tuesday as new protests are expected. They barricaded the parliament building as some 575 lawmakers were sworn in the day.

Authorities compare the protests to the post-election riots that paralyzed Jakarta back in May.

Since the new protests erupted last week, at least two protesters have been killed and hundreds more injured.

The unrest came just weeks before President Joko Widodo starts a second term.

The parliament has delayed the passage of the reforms and Widodo said he would also consider revising a separate bill about the powers of Indonesia’s corruption-fighting agency.

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