Indonesians Clash with Police Outside US Embassy
By Matthew Pennington 18 September 2012
JAKARTA, Indonesia—Indonesians enraged over an anti-Islam film hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at the US Embassy in Jakarta on Monday, in the first violence in the world’s most populous Muslim country since outrage exploded last week in the Middle East and beyond.
Eleven police officers were hospitalized after being pelted with rocks and attacked with bamboo sticks, said Jakarta police chief Maj-Gen Untung Rajab. Four protesters were arrested and at least one hospitalized.
Protesters burned a picture of President Barack Obama, who spent part of his childhood living here. They also tried to torch a fire engine parked outside the embassy, ripping a hose from the vehicle and igniting it, which sent plumes of black smoke billowing skyward.
Molotov cocktails exploded against a fence surrounding the compound as police used a bullhorn to call for calm and deployed water cannons and tear gas to try to disperse the crowd.
“We will destroy America like this flag,” a protester screamed while burning a US flag. “We will chase away the American ambassador from the country.”
The demonstration started peacefully as several hundred protesters from the Islamic People’s Forum and the Front of Islamic Defenders, many dressed in white, marched toward the diplomatic mission. The protesters paused to observe afternoon prayers about 100 meters outside the embassy, then resumed the rally. They threw rocks at riot police, who used shields to push the crowd back.
Munarman, a spokesman for the Front of Islamic Defenders, told reporters at the scene that the US government is responsible for the filmmaker who insulted Islam, regardless of laws protecting freedom of speech.
“We will continue to protest until the US government takes proper legal action against them,” he said.
Demonstrations were also held on Monday in the cities of Medan and Bogor. Over the weekend in the central Java town of Solo, protesters stormed KFC and McDonald’s restaurants, forcing customers to leave and management to close the stores.
The privately produced American-made film “Innocence of Muslims” ridicules Islam and depicts the Prophet Muhammad as a fraud, a womanizer and a pedophile. The low-budget movie has prompted violent protests against US embassies and other targets in several countries in the Middle East and beyond.
Access to the video has been blocked in Indonesia after the government declared it illegal, though some clips could still be viewed online Monday. Most of the secular nation’s 210 million Muslims practice a moderate form of the religion.