Demonstrations in the West Papua region of Indonesia today have turned into an uprising as thousands of protesters, angered by alleged police abuse against ethnic Papuan students, burned public facilities and blocked roads.
West Papuan Student Dorm Stormed by Special Operations Police
In West Papua province’s capital of Manokwari, protesters burned the parliamentary building and local stores. A building previously occupied by West Papua Provincial Governor Dominggus Mandacan was also burned and vehicles were torched.
Many young students waved the Morning Star flag, a symbol of liberation and self-rule by Papuans. “We are not white and red, we are morning star,” they shouted. Those carrying the flag face sever repression: arrest and imprisonment of up to 15 years.
There are also demonstrations reported in the city of Jayapura, the capital and largest city of Papua, the country’s easternmost province. Hundreds of people riding their motorbikes were seen joining the protest.
The demonstration on Monday erupted following the arrest last week of ethnic Papuan students living in Surabaya and Malang in Java island. Police had locked down the dormitory of the Papuan students and fired tear gas to clear their rooms - justifying these incursions by claimed asault on the Indonesian flag.
The government in Jakarta maintains that West Papua region, which occupies the western half of the island of Papua New Guinea, is Indonesian because it was part of the Dutch East Indies colonial empire. West Papuans have been subjected to racism, torture, arrest and executions by the authorities ever since.
An armed rebellion by indigenous Papuans, who now make up about half the population after years of migration by people from other parts of Indonesia, has been fighting back.
On Monday August 19, anarchists dropped banners in solidarity with West Papuan students who have come under attack recently by police, military and far-right / fundamentalist militias in Java.