Mass Crowds Gathered in Tanah Abang: A Mix of Responses

Southeast Asia’s largest textile market, Tanah Abang, has always been a popular place to visit ahead of Eid celebrations. With Eid coming in just a few days, pictures and videos showing how swarmed the market place was on the 2nd of May went viral. Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan confirmed that an estimated 87,000 people visited the market.

Although very much concerning and very much something that shouldn’t happen in the midst of a global pandemic – some of the responses and coverage were unfortunately things that many people felt was a sad show of Indonesia’s classist undertone. We can’t forget that despite the reactions, this shouldn’t be a “Tanah Abang” thing. With the pandemic very much still a major factor affecting millions worldwide, we shouldn’t only be focusing on just “occasions” or “incidents” in general.

Officials have already begun warning the public of another potential rise of COVID cases ahead of the Eid holidays as many continue to crowd into shopping centers, malls, restaurants, places of worship, and some are still making efforts to return to their hometowns despite heavy restrictions.

As the pictures of Tanah Abang flooded social media, the public many voiced their frustrations on the Jakarta administration who had failed to anticipate the mass gathering. According to an article on the Jakarta Post, city secretary Marullah Matali pinned it on a lack of manpower, explaining that the city’s COVID task force couldn’t really do much when faced with the sea of customers.

According to reports, the Jakarta Metro Police and the Indonesian Military have set up security posts to further prepare for potential crowds gathering within the area. As we’re entering the holidays, only time will tell just how much of an impact it will make on the COVID cases within the nation’s capital – one of the areas heavily affected by the virus.

Now, talking about the responses

Not going to disregard the fact that the crowds were something newsworthy or “viral” worthy, but the mass crowds at Tanah Abang shouldn’t only be a “Tanah Abang” thing. While people are still making holiday trips in and around the country, still gathering within malls or shopping areas whilst disregarding the safety protocols altogether – should we really be making it all about the Tanah Abang crowds?

Not having anything againts Nuice Media in particular, but their “coverage” of the news really proves my point when talking about the classist undertone. A “double standard” as to say.

In a way, the whole coverage of the mass gathering was more of a frustration towards the lack of preparation or restrictions put being enforced by the city’s administration.

All in all, it’s crucial to know that at the end of the day, it isn’t about malls or markets. It’s simply about abiding to the rules in general. The point I want to make is just how easy it is to quickly turn incidents such as these into something not too far from having a classist undertone.

Why aren’t we making memes or viral coverage about how crowded it can get in malls? Why are we pointing fun at the lack of safety precautions being taken in Tanah Abang when people are literally making holiday trips in and around the country?


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