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Semarang students demand release of activists, end to criminalisation

Java Post - March 22, 2018

Around 80 students from the Alliance of Student Executive Councils (ABEM) in the Central Java provincial capital of Semarang held an action at the Jl. Pemuda traffic circle on the afternoon of Thursday March 22.

Protesting beneath the heavy rain, they demanded an end to the criminalisation of activists protesting against alleged environmental pollution by the company PT Rayon Utama Makmur (PT RUM) in Sukoharjo, Central Java.

The action began with a march from the Pleburan area in South Semarang to the location where the planned rally would be held. Speaking during a break in the protest, action coordinator M. Sofi Tamam explained that they had initially intended to hold the protest in front of the Central Java police headquarters (Mapolda).

"But earlier the Polrestabes [metropolitan district police] stopped us and ordered us here (the Jl. Pemuda traffic circle). The [headquarters] had to be sterile because tomorrow Pak Kapolri [the national police chief] will arrive to officiate the opening of a new Mapolda building", he said.

In relation to their own action, the Wahid Hasyim University (Unwahas) student said that the demonstration was held as a form of concern and solidarity with the environmental activists that are currently being held by the Central Java district police.

The activists were arrested in late February for holding a demonstration against air pollution caused by waste from the PT RUM factory.

"This is an expression of our solidarity with the arrested environmental activists. They were arrested by police, yet they were fighting for the people polluted by PT RUM's waste", added Tamam.

With regard to the participants at the action, Tamam said that the protesters were made up of an alliance of BEMs from the Sultan Agung Islamic University (Unissula), the University of Diponegoro (UNDIP), the Semarang State University (UNNES), Unwahas, the Semarang Indonesian Teachers Association University (Upgris) and the Semarang University (USM).

"What's more one of the activists who was arrested was a student from UMS (the Surakarta Muhammadiyah University). We felt obliged to take to the streets", said the Islamic religious studies student.

The action was continued with speeches by several students. A number of protesters brought banners with messages such as, "Stop the Criminalisation of Environmental Fighters: Free our Comrades, Our Comrades Only Wanted to Fight for the Environment and Clean Air".

"From UMS itself, a day after the arrest, there was a request to suspend the arrest but there was no response. We cannot rule out the possibility that if this continues, there will be future actions to follow", said the eighth semester student.

As of this report being sent for publication or at around 4.34pm, the protest action was still continuing under tight security by the Semarang Polrestabes. (gul/JPC)

[Translated by James Balowski for the Indoleft News Service. The original title of the article was Turung ke Jalan, Mahasiswa Semarang Minta Pendemo PT RUM Dibebaskan.]

Source: https://www.jawapos.com/read/2018/03/22/198149/turung-ke-jalan-mahasiswa-semarang-minta-pendemo-pt-rum-dibebaskan.

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