The Jayapura Municipality Police (Polresta Jayapura) and Indonesian military members have forcefully dispersed a peaceful student demonstration against the university’s scientific assessment of West Papua’s special autonomy since its enactment in 2001. The demonstration was held in the Abepurra campus of Cenderawasih University (UNCEN) Jayapura, Papua Province, on 28 September 2020. Videos of the crackdown show how police officers storm the campus with teargas, water cannons and warning shots. At least two students were injured as a result of the use of excessive force by the police against the protesters. Four protesters were arrested, temporarily detained and released on the same day. According to media outlet Suara Papua, security force members also damaged a dozen motorcycles which belonged to UNCEN students.
The students gathered around 7.00 am at the university campus in Abepura from where they wanted to walk towards the governor’s office to make orations. Simultaneously, joint security forces gathered outside the campus and prevented the crowd from leaving the campus (see intro image, source: Jubi). Moreover, the police instructed that the students should disperse the rally before 11.00 am. When the protest was still ongoing at 11.00 am, joint security forces dispersed the crowd with warning shots, tear gas and water cannons.
The excessive use of force during the crowd control operation left at least two protesters wounded. The students Yabet Lukas Degei and Telius Wanimbo sustained bleeding injuries on the back of the head after security force members stroke them with rifle butts. The police arrested the protest coordinator, Ayus Heluka, as well as three other protesters named Salmon Tipagau, Yabet Degei and Telius Wanimbo.
The Jayapura Police Chief, Gustav Urbinas, justified the forceful dispersal explaining that all demonstrations in Papua are prohibited during the COVID-19 pandemic. Various local parliament members and civil society organisations condemned the harsh intervention by security force members. They considered the operation as non-democratic and disproportionate. They also reminded the security force apparatus that the freedom of expression and peaceful assembly is guaranteed under Indonesian as well as international law.