Rioting broke out in Manokwari, West Papua, on Monday as local people, comprising mostly university students, protested against the recent case of racial abuse of Papuan students in East Java.
The protesters blocked a number of major streets in the city on Monday morning, cutting down trees to be used as barricades.
The West Papua Regional Legislative Council (DPRD) building in the city was set on fire and tires were burned on the roads, Kompas TV reported.
“Most of them were provoked by content circulating in social media about the racial abuse of Papuan students in Surabaya,” National Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Dedi Prasetyo said on Monday.
Three cars and two motorcycles were reportedly burned, while a number of buildings — including the DPRD building — were damaged during the protests, he said.
Dedi said police and Indonesian Military (TNI) personnel had conducted negotiations and called for the protesters to refrain from being destructive and to rally peacefully.
Authorities have questioned a number of the protesters but have not made any arrests, he said.
The protests came after security personnel and members of mass organizations reportedly launched physical and verbal attacks on Papuan students living in a dormitory in Surabaya, East Java, on Sunday, accusing the Papuans of refusing to celebrate Indonesia's 74th Independence Day over the weekend.
The angry mob arrived at the dormitory after they found a discarded Indonesian flag near the building. During the incident, they reportedly threw stones at the dormitory while shouting racial abuse and chanting “Kick out the Papuans!” and “Slaughter the Papuans!” for hours.
Deputy West Papua governor Mohamad Lakotani said on Monday that he, together with West Papua Police chief Brig. Gen. Herry Rudolf Nahak and Kasuari Military Command (Kodam) commander Maj. Gen. Joppye Onesimus Wayangkau, had met with representatives of the protesters.
Initially peaceful, the meeting turned violent as a number of protestors threw stones and lumps of wood at the three officials, he said.
However, Mohamad promised that the officials and authorities would listen to the people’s demands. “Furthermore, if it’s realistic, we will try our best to meet their requests,” he said. (bry/afr)