Jakarta ground to a halt when tens of thousands staged a protest demonstration outside the Presidential Palace last Friday. The protest was mostly peaceful but when the sun went down there were some sporadic incidents of violence, raising for some the specter of the riots of 1998.
All Friday, the day of the demonstration, Netizens were focused on the goings on at the demonstration but shortly after midnight after President Jokowi held a press conference about the demonstration, the focus shifted dramatically to an unlikely object. Jokowi’s jacket.
Throughout Friday, social media was filled with comments from users with hashtags such as #demo411, #demo4november, and #obrolanpendemo.
Twitter was full of praises for the demonstrators for conducting their protest in an orderly and peaceful manner. Some shared photographs of the ocean of protesters on Jalan MH Thamrin, Merdeka Square, the National Monument, and around the National Palace. Others posted photographs of volunteers carrying plastic bags for trash.
@poetrimutiara said he was, “grateful that #demo411 proceeded safely, peacefully and orderly even though most people thought they would be merely provocative or acting on behalf of political interests.”
@nihaqus wrote: “Greetings to my Muslim brothers who are joining the rally. Show the face of Islam that is peaceful, not the one that is full of curses and inflammatory words. # Demo411 ”
@fahrul_anams added: “Thank God Today’s demo was smooth and peaceful. A man is also seen carrying plastic garbage banks so that there is no littering.”
The amicable feeling about the demonstration turned tense after evening prayers when some of the demonstrators massed outside the entrance to the presidential palace and insisted on being let in. The police permit they had obtained had stipulated that they needed to disperse at 6 PM. Some protesters were detained by the security forces. This was followed by the shoving and throwing of water bottles at the police. The commotion increased when some police cars were torched.
Denied entry into the palace, some demonstrators moved toward the parliament building in Senayan via Jalan Sudirman. As a crowd massed there two riots broke out in Luar Batang and Penjaringan. There was a group of people who intercepted cars and looted a supermarket. But the police acted swiftly and the unrest was contained soon after without a chance of spreading.
@RadioElshinta reported: “LIVE NOW! Jakarta Military Commander, Major General Teddy Lhaksamana: Officers have pacified Luar Batang, it is now safe, don’t worry.”
In spite of this the rumors flew fast and furious that there was riots and looting had broken out elsewhere, worrying some Jakarta residents that they may see a repeat of the 1998 riots.
At this juncture Netizens introduced the #SafetyCheckJkt hashtag on Twitter, so that all users can inform each other which areas are safe and which not.
@Pandji wrote: “Monitor #safetycheckjkt to know the status of places in in Jakarta.”
In spite of this rumors kept flying and tensions escalated. Then, at midnight President Jokowi held a press conference that lasted five minutes.
Jokowi assured everyone that things were under control. He spoke about the demonstrations and the legal process that Ahok would have to undergo. He also urged all demonstrators that were still on the streets to return home.
What was the reaction on social media? Instead of commenting on the content of the speech, Netizens focused instead on the jacket worn by the president that night.
@deroswunga: “The conclusion from listening to @jokowi’s press conference: finding out the brand of the jacket worn by him.”
@kmingyyu asked, “what is the brand of Jokowi’s bomber jacket?”
@miund had an answer: “yes, it was Pull & Bear, people. chill. ”
@bangaip, however thought differently: “His bomber jacket was from Zara, I think.”
To settle this difference of opinion @amrazing had a japat (Indonesian for poll): “Okay. Let’s settle this with a poll: what brand was Jokowi’s jacket?”
The obsession with Jokowi’s jacket went up a notch when his son Kaesang (@kaesangp) wrote: “Anyone wants to know where to buy the jacket check out @ markobar1996 @MOMMILK_SOLO @CeKopi @Pastabuntel @Chilli_Pari @CakarDheer.”
This status was retweeted 276 times.
Why were Netizens so engrossed with Jokowi’s jacket?
@teguhwicaksono said: “Because people are tired of the same tired, negative information so any amusing distraction is welcomed.”
@devieriana wrote:”Because we are bored with violence and need a picnic.”
@thinpices “Tired of seeing those who use religion for political purposes.”
@amasna said: “because the situation needs some refreshing.”
@arundhatishint_ wrote, “because the jacket the President wore has been a hit among youths this past year.”
@DollySW Account states, “Because it made people curious. In the end I bought the jacket.”
The jacket conversations were a windfall for three Zara outlets in Pondok Indah Mall, Grand Indonesia and Plaza Indonesia where their entire stocks of Jokowi bomber jackets were sold out.
This priority of trivia over serious issues is an interesting reflection of how the young people in Indonesia think and react to politics and violence around them. Are they so jaded by the politicking that they need to seek other distractions? Or are they so shallow-minded that a garment takes precedence over important affairs of the State?
Photo: Antara and @bangaip