Police said they have detained “several” people who were being attacked by members of the crowd after trying to rip posters and signs out of protesters’ hands at a chaotic anti-Islamic Defenders Front rally at the Hotel Indonesia traffic circle on Tuesday afternoon.
“There are several people we have escorted to our post… You don’t know how may spies there could be [in the crowd],” said Jakarta Police officer M. Nababan.
He said that the FPI could have agent provocateurs and “spies” milling among the protesters in order to stir up trouble.
“I have reminded the [protesters] to please hold a peaceful action, but today everything could easily be heated up. What if it explodes? Who will save the protesters?” he said.
Nababan said he hoped there would be no more violence, as the winner of any conflict would not be the police, but journalists.
“Who will win? The media, seeing police shooting people!” he said.
A Jakarta Globe reporter spotted members of the Liberal Islam Group (JIL) at the scene, and also said members of hardline groups other than the FPI were milling about.
Organizers of the rally against the use of violence by hardline groups had announced that they were aborting the protest shortly after it began due to fears that FPI members could arrive and spark a violent confrontation.
One organizer alleged that police had said to her: “If something happens [after the FPI comes to HI], that’s not our responsibility.”
Despite word of the rally being cancelled, television reports showed the traffic circle, and the streets surrounding it, to be filled with citizens, police and journalists milling about and disrupting traffic on the busy roundabout.
Scuffles were seen breaking out amongst the crowd, and Metro TV footage showed one man ripping a large anti-FPI banner out of the hands of one group of protesters and then becoming involved in a drawn out fight with several people.
Some officials blamed the outbreaks of violence on anarchist provocateurs hoping to incite a violent confrontation.