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Two Chickens to Fight

Police Crack Down on East Bali Chicken Fights Results in Protests, a Burnt Police Station and 50 Arrests.

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A Wednesday, November 2, 2005, raid by Bali police on illegal chicken fights in Menanga Village (Karangasem Regency), in which four gamblers were arrested, provoked a retaliatory demonstration by local villagers who attacked and burned the Rendang Police Station.

The public protests and attack on the police station, according to the local press, are believed to have been instigated by well-known gamblers in the area who provoked the villagers into sounding the traditional kul-kul wooden drum which rallied local villagers out of their homes and onto local streets shortly after the initial arrests.

Confronted by angry crowds and burning tires blocking roads in the area, the four suspects were transferred to the more-distant Amlapura police precinct while two truckloads of specially trained riot police were dispatched to the scene of the rioting estimated at its peak to have involved 1,500 local citizens. The reinforcements arrived in Rendang to find the police station burning after being attacked by the crowd.

Meanwhile, Bali's Police Chief Irjen Made Mangku Pastika, traveled to the scene of the civil altercation, vowing to stay on the scene to provide moral support to his men until the perpetrators of the attack on the station were arrested.

With detectives and 200 personnel from Bali's special police brigade arriving on the scene in the course of the evening, an initial 10 arrests were made. Commenting on those arrested in the Jakarta Post. Chief Pastika said, "each of them had been tasked with a specific job prior to the attack. One suspect was responsible for buying kerosene, another for buying firewood and there was even a suspect who confessed to having been tasked with buying and distributing food among the protesters."

In the course of the evening, 4 local village men were injured, reportedly by ricocheting bullets fired as warning shots by the police. Local villagers told the Indonesian-language Bali Post that the police station was razed by angry villagers only after seeing 4 of their neighbors had been wounded. Meanwhile, police officials claim the shootings were in accordance with procedure and occurred when villagers attacked a group of policemen leaving the scene to return to their barracks. No deaths were reported in connection with the shooting or the civil disturbance, with only 2 men still hospitalized 3 days after the incident.

In keeping with the Bali Police Chief's vow to crackdown on illegal gambling and deal decisively with anyone fomenting civil disorder and attacking police officers, a total of 50 people have been officially named as suspects in the incident and numerous arrests have been made. The original 4 of the 50 arrested will be charged with petty gambling offences, while it is expected the remaining 46 will face much heavier charges of public disorder and destruction of public property punishable by up to 10 years in jail.

The village where the incident occurred, Menanga, has been the subject of past gambling raids with police complaining that local villagers refuse to stop their illegal activities.

As of late Friday, the situation in Mananga had returned largely to normal with police on guard to ensure continued peace.

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