A group of police officers was recorded beating up two Papuan students in the town of Sentani, Jayapura Regency, on 5 May 2023. According to the information received, the police officers beat Ati Wisal, Wefron Towolom, and Oki Yoman because they had spraypainted their school uniform with a Morning Star Symbol – a common practice across West Papua on graduation day. Both pupils are enrolled in the STM Hawai Sentani technical middle school. The police officers forced the two students to remove their shirts while collectively punching them in the face.
The video shows police officers repeatedly punching two of the students in the head. One officer beats the students with a baton. Another man in plain cloth, who appears to be a bystander, approaches a student surrounded by police officers from behind and kicks him into the back. The police officers witness the attack but do not protect the student (see video below). The video quickly went viral on social media platforms.
On 8 May 2023, the Jayapura Police Chief, Commissioner Fredrick Macklarimboen, stated that two police officers are currently being investigated by the Profession and Security Division (Propam) Unit. He claimed the students were intoxicated and had not behaved politely as the police officers passed the location in a patrol vehicle. Thereupon, the police officers stopped the car and began torturing the students.
The Morning Star is a symbol of cultural identity for indigenous Papuans. Article 2 of the Papuan Special Autonomy Law (UU Otsus) acknowledges the use of a regional emblem as a symbol of cultural identity if the symbol is not used to compromise the sovereignty of Indonesia. Indonesian authorities continue criminalising the use of the Morning Star on clothing and accessories. The Papuan independence movement promotes the Morning Star Flag as their National Flag.