The story about punk rockers getting arrested in Indonesia's Aceh province and the police shaving off their mohawks to try to rehabilitate them is ridiculous. It's also very punk rock. The deputy mayor of Banda Aceh, the province's capital where the punkers were arrested, called punk a "new social disease" for Aceh, which sounds like a punk band name.
Punk was born from disaffection, and that's what it's still largely about. Look at The Clash's self-titled debut album. The song "Remote Control" is all about how City Hall and big business won't let you be a punk. Or the far more militant "Guns of Brixton" about the police cracking down on a South London neighborhood. Or take Sham 69's "Borstal Breakout," which is all about getting locked up for nothing. In Los Angeles, the notorious Elks Lodge riot of 1979 set punk rockers against police for years to come. Then there's Suburbia, the movie that helped define punks (or helped them define themselves) as refugees from society who had to fear the police and could only trust each other. More recently, emo kids had to get organized for their own protection in Mexico. A former roommate who went by the name Chainsaw actually had a tattoo across his whole back depicting a faceless, mohawked figure hanging from a cross. Punks totally have a persecution complex.
The crackdown in Aceh on Saturday was like something straight out of a punk song (maybe The Drones' "Persecution Complex?"). Religious and state police busted a group of about 100 people watching a punk show in a park in Banda Aceh, capital of the special province of Indonesia that adheres to shariah law. Police have antagonized punks there for months now, but the bust saturday was the biggest roundup of rockers yet. The Jakarta Globe reports:
Sixty-four young people have been held by the Aceh Police since Saturday for the supposed crime of being “punk”. They have not been charged with any crime or brought before a court.
On Tuesday afternoon, police took the detainees to the Aceh State Police camp, located in the hills 62 kilometers outside of the city, to “re-educate” them. Mohawks and dyed hair came off as police shaved the men’s heads and forced them into a lake. The women’s hair was cut short in the fashion of a female police officer.
The deputy mayor, Illiza Sa’aduddin Djamal, stood behind her police:
“This is a new social disease affecting Banda Aceh. If it is allowed to continue, the government will have to spend more money to handle them,” the deputy mayor said, adding that religious scholars were assisting at the camp.
That line about the "new social disease" is what's going to stick around from this incident once the rest of the world, and eventually the rest of Indonesia, forgets about it. Our friend Marlow Riley, with whom we chatted about the story this morning, is already on it: "on another IM i'm planning on starting a punk band called 'new social disease,' btw," he wrote. Indonesian music producer Adhit Android is tweeting about it. So is Bali-Based filmmaker Daniel Ziv.
So you've got your persecuted punks; your catchy, ironic turn of phrase that can become a band name, what else can you pile onto this story to make it a classic entry into punk's history of law-enforcement shit shows? Perhaps a bit of blatant hypocrisy? In Aceh, where caning is a routine punishment, a woman can be stopped by police for wearing too-tight jeans, and drugs carry the death penalty, The Globe reported that 1,000 police officers had been busted for doing crystal methamphetamine. They won't be fired or prosecuted. Sounds like a bad break for those 64 punks forced to clean up by members of that same police force. But that's what being kept down by The Man is all about.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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