UPDATE 1 – Shots, Tear Gas Fired in Jakarta Protests

JAKARTA

Police fired tear gas and warning shots to disperse protesters who took to the streets on Wednesday to mark the first anniversary of the swearing in of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

More than 150 mainly student demonstrators blocked roads in the wealthy Menteng neighbourhood of central Jakarta with wooden planks, and attacked police who tried to remove them.

They hurled rocks and sticks at the riot police, who responded with tear gas and rifle fire into the air. Three people were taken into custody, and one man was shot in the leg, protesters said.

“They were pushing us away for several minutes when suddenly they opened fire. I heard 10 gunshots, the first into the air and the rest at us,” said 24-year-old student Adi.

“One student was shot in his right leg and was taken to hospital.”

One of the demonstrators shouted “this is the source of the mess in this country” as they set a poster of Yudhoyono alight.

“We had to fire tear gas to disperse the protesters as they set fire to the president’s poster,” Jakarta police spokesman Boy Rafli Amar said.

“We’ll take firmer action against them if they start to burn cars or buildings.”

Thousands of protesters took part in other anti-government rallies on Wednesday in Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya, Palu and Bogor, where students also reportedly clashed with police.

Almost 20,000 police were on standby in the capital to deal with any unrest, the Antara state news agency reported.

About 300 protesters gathered in front of the presidential palace in Jakarta, shouting “SBY has failed, SBY has failed,” using the president’s nickname.

“He has failed to eradicate corruption,” said Rudi Daman of a group called the People’s Defender Front.

Another protester, Yati Andriyani of the Commission for Missing Persons and Victims of Violence, said Yudhoyono had not honoured promises to protect human rights in the mainly Muslim country of 240 million people.

“They were only empty promises,” she said.

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