Reflections on a Metal Riot

By : Jakarta Globe | on 6:15 PM August 21, 2013
Category : Life & Style, Music

American heavy metal band Metallica is set to perform in Jakarta on Sunday. During the band's 1993 show in the city, violent riots broke out. (EPA Photo) American heavy metal band Metallica is set to perform in Jakarta on Sunday. During the band's 1993 show in the city, violent riots broke out. (EPA Photo)

It did not take long for the members of Jakarta punk rock posse Young Offender to realize that their Mohawks, pins, and needles did not make a kindly first impression. Strolling with an affected nonchalance through the affluent neighborhood of Pondok Indah, South Jakarta, on the night of April 10, 1993, the guys, in their late teens, were about to learn a difficult lesson the hard way.

A few old Toyota Kijang passenger vans — ubiquitous at the time — with tinted windows suddenly braked hard beside the Offenders. Tough as they were trying to look — colored spikes, chained getups and defiant sneers — the Young Offenders were, ultimately, young men who felt far more threatening in large numbers. But at the time, there were less than 10 of them.

They were outnumbered and outgunned.

Around 30 security officers rushed from the vans and began pounding on the offenders with their batons. No questions, warnings, or explanations were given. Stripped of their clothes and dignity, the Young Offenders were terrified but saw only confirmation that they were on the right side of the fence in a compromised and corrupt society.

They were detained, and only after one of their fathers, a journalist, miraculously passing by to cover the riots, were they released.

Like the Young Offender crew, the security officers were making the rounds around those particular areas in South Jakarta as a result of the continuing chaos nearby.

Metallica, the American heavy metal band that was, and arguably still is, the biggest rock band on the planet, was playing a concert at the Lebak Bulus stadium, where things were starting to deteriorate.

“The scene looked like [the John Carpenter dystopian sci-fi classic] ‘Escape From New York,’  ” is how Eka Annash, an advertising executive and former Young Offender, described it.

Time has blurred the facts, but reports counted almost 60 burned-out cars, around 90 arrests and at least 50 reported injuries during what was at the time the biggest rock concert ever held in the country. If legends are to be believed, 100,000 people crammed into the stadium, some without tickets but only with a burning desire to ravage that part of the city.

Now in their late 30s and with families, the Young Offenders have traded in anger and spikes for work shirts and some contentment, although their style perseveres through the mod-infused styles of their work jackets and chic hairstyles.

With Metallica coming back to Jakarta this Sunday for a concert at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in South Jakarta, members of the Young Offenders are opening up about that chaotic night in 1993.

The riot started for several reasons, some circumstantial and some socio-political. The gargantuan number of rioters negates the assumption that these were all metalheads channeling their rage. Like other riots, the more people partook the more others wanted to join in the festivities.

Some reports wrote that it all began when the bus carrying the band mistakenly took them through the front gate — absurdly, the only entrance for ticketholders — where fanatical devotees were ready to pounce, having endured the disorganized lines and slow security checks.

Members of this “Metal Militia” began to bang on the bus, screaming out the names of band members and hoping for a reaction. The organizers asked security to calm things down, which they allegedly did by screaming and banging on gates that were by then closed, blocking fans from the venue.

Akrom Satoto was one fan being yelled at. He recalls noticing a change of atmosphere when those security officers, whom he suspected to be members of the FKPPI, an Indonesian Army youth group, began trying to assert their authority over the fans.

“Somebody began chucking some gravel over the FKPPI guys, and before long, everybody began throwing things — anything they could get a hold of. All kinds of insults were thrown among everybody,” Akrom said.

Then other non-FKPPI officers began to take part and all the while rioters were setting things on fire. Akrom remembers somebody finding a truck full of spare tires, taking them down and setting each one alight before trying to throw them over the large gates. A restaurant that was located right next to the gate was also set aflame.

Not long after, security officers began fighting back, opening the gate and beating people to a pulp before taking inside whomever they could.

“Inside the gates, those [rioters] — some of whom were already passed out — were beaten with wooden sticks, batons, belts, and other things,” Akrom said.

While it was happening, the Young Offenders succumbed to their punkish nature and kept busy trying to provoke those whom they perceived to be the enemy: trendy metalheads.

“We were all under the influence of alcohol and began partaking in the chaos,” Young Offender Muhammad “Ondy” Rusdy said.

“I remember throwing rocks at cars and heavily denting a [Mercedes Benz] car. We were at the forefront of the unrest.”

Through it all, the Young Offenders ran into other “fallen” rioters, many of whom were carried in ambulances, “screaming in pain,” Eka said.

Eka, who now fronts the well-known garage rock act The Brandals , said that throughout there were sounds of “gunshots and what sounded like bombs. It was like a war-zone.”

Fellow Young Offender Taba recalls one of the crew members falling down a 10-meter deep well as things descended into chaos. All the other Young Offenders tried to pull him up, facing one comical failure after another.

“We saw that things were getting uglier and uglier, so we decided to check out,” Eka said. The group, in search of something to eat, headed to Pondok Indah on foot. En route they saw other rioters throwing rocks and breaking the windows of some houses, and looting what they could. The streets outside the then-new and prestigious Pondok Indah Mall were tattered with looted items and rocks. Some tenants whose stores were at the front of the mall were left with broken windows.

It was a long way from their initial plan of “scalping tickets and playing soccer.” Little did the Young Offenders know their comeuppance was right behind them.

Others fared no better, even if they had tickets and stayed clear of the riots. 36-year-old Arly Bayuaji recalls arriving at the scene as the flames were swelling and immediately being chased by security.

“I ran into a church across the street from the stadium and hid behind a ping pong table. It was to my surprise that other, let’s call them ‘victims,’ were also hiding there.”

It did not matter; security officers were beyond discriminating between rioters and ordinary ticket holders. The last thing Arly recalls was seeing a security officer boot stomp his friend’s head and an unforgettable thump on his own head right after screaming “I have a ticket!”

Arly awoke a few moments later inside the stadium, his friends having carried him inside through a side entrance. The concert was on, and the lucky few who managed to enter the stadium before the chaos had a few metal classics to sing along to.

For a few moments, the young men set aside their pain, though Arly and some of his friends had to stay in the hospital for a week for concussions and bone fracture on their heads.

The group of 10 agreed that the riots are unlikely to be repeated. They said current music fans and organizers were prepared for such a large-scale event .

The organizer for this week’s Metallica show, Blackrock Entertainment, has called on more than 4,000 security officers, prompting Metallica’s management — who has visited the country already to ensure security — to dub Jakarta the most prepared city for a concert.

“Back then, it wasn’t just the organizers who weren’t prepared, but the government and society, too,” said Eka.

“It was a social event that was far from rare in the country; a rock band just happened to be playing.

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