Rising Food, Fuel Prices Drive National May Day Rallies

JAKARTA ~ Thousands of Indonesians took to the streets of the capital for Labor Day rallies on Thursday, with rising food prices and an expected cut in fuel subsidies weighing heavily on workers’ minds.

“We are expecting more than 40,000 people demonstrating today,” policeman Hariyadi said as thousands of workers gathered at the central Imam Bonjol traffic circle.

Carrying banners reading “Lower Food Prices Now” and “More Pay for Workers and Farmers,” many of the demonstrators said they were alarmed at soaring inflation and the prospect of sharply higher fuel bills.

“We want the price of kerosene to come down. Food is getting expensive,” said garment factory worker Yuningsih.

Jakarta Police chief Adang Firman told reporters after monitoring the capital from a helicopter that 10,000 security personnel had been deployed to control the rallies and another 50,000 were on standby.

All May Day rallies were banned in Surabaya, the country’s second largest city, because the workers’ holiday coincided with a religious holiday, police said.

“Rallies are not allowed during a public holiday. Let’s respect Jesus’ Ascension day,” Surabaya Police chief Anang Iskandar told state news agency Antara.

If there were any rallies, they would be broken up, he said.

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