Tens of thousands of Indonesians took to the street to be a part of the second anti-Ahok rally in the capital city of Jakarta, demanding immediate arrest of the city's Chinese Christian governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama.
Radical Muslims in the country are baying for the blood of Governor Ahok, a suspect in the high-profile blasphemy case that roiled sentiments across Indonesia. Ahok received flak for allegedly misquoting a verse from the Quran during one of his speeches in September where he allegedly criticised his opponents for citing a verse in the Quran which warns Muslims against forming an alliance with Christians and Jews saying that they were "lying".
It is reported that authorities have deployed more than 22,000 police personnel to keep strict vigil and ensure law and order. Though it was announced that this rally will be peaceful, the administration is sceptical that the demonstration might turn violent like the rally of 4 November.
"We are expecting over 100,000 participants... There is enough security so the public need not worry. We hope everything will proceed according to the agreement with the protesters," said Jakarta police spokesman Argo Yuwono, according to the Channel News Asia.
Helicopters hovered over the city last week, dropping leaflets with harsh warnings of penalties against miscreants who attempt to instigate violence during the rally. The Jakarta government also put up roadside billboards with pictures of heroes who fought for independence, calling for national unity.
Failure of first anti-Ahok rally
The first anti-Ahok rally accelerated into a bloody demonstration where gangs of jihadists torched police cars and attacked officers. Police had to fire tear gas, water cannon and truncheons into thousands of rioting protesters to bring the situation under control. It was also reported that the angry mobs tried to enter the governor's housing complex in northern Jakarta but the police foiled the move.
On 20 November, citizens were requested by Jakarta Police to not join the 2 December rally. "Residents should not join the rally on Nov. 25 or on Dec. 2 since police have already named Ahok a suspect in the case," said Police Chief Mochamad Iriawan.
The rally, which has been planned by Muslim hardliners grouped under the National Movement to Save Indonesian Ulema Council's edict (GNPF-MUI), started the National Monument in the centre of the city at around 5am from the Istiqlal mosque, after the morning prayers.
Ahok continues daily affairs
Meanwhile, Governor Ahok seems unperturbed by the protest as he is contesting against two Muslim candidates in the re-election in February 2017. Moreover on Friday, as Jakarta is hunkering down to brace for a potentially violent rally, Ahok is planning to meet constituents at his Rumah Lembang, Central Jakarta, campaign headquarters where he is likely to lead a morning prayer.
However, the governor has apologised for his mistakes by saying that he never intended to insult Islam and the Quran.
Will the president speak up?
The president of the country with the world's largest Muslim population, Joko Widodo, has also received flak for being a close ally of the governor. Though it was reported that the president told religious leaders that he would not intervene in Ahok's case, on 8 November, he said that he will not protect Ahok. "I emphasize here, I will not protect Basuki Tjahaja Purnama because [his case] is being legally processed," said Jokowi, as reported by The Jakarta Post.