FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Grad Students at UKZN Attacked, Arrested by SAPS and private security without provocation
Today, just after 12:30pm, students participating in a peaceful demonstration at Howard College were attacked and arrested by SAPS.
Peaceful protests organised by SASCO have been happening all week. Protesters have been demanding safety at residences, adequate maintenance and living conditions, and better management of cafeteria services, among other things. This strike was provoked by an armed robbery at one of the off-campus residences, where students’ property was stolen and women threatened with rape. Upset with the lack of action on the part of the University, a protest was called last Friday, August 17th.
Roving protests started this morning. Police have accompanied the peaceful protests throughout. Some were in SAPS uniforms, some in riot gear, others in black shirts which said “VIP protection,” and others were in white overalls and helmets with “strike force” written on them. There appeared to be some police officers in plain clothes.
At roughly 12:30pm, about a dozen police in riot gear blocked around 100 students from continuing to the cafeteria. Students retreated and gathered in front of the Howard Building. Police then created a barricade to the left of the building. As students retreated to right of Howard Building, the police shot gas canisters. Several students confirm that no warning was given. At least one student was burnt by the canisters.
After, students quickly dispersed, the riot police instructed student walking peacefully to run. Riot police then shot at least two rounds of tear gas into the dispersing crowd. Students also report that they were pepper sprayed. Some students trying to exit the scene, were rounded up, arrested and taken to Umbilo police station.
According to one student, two people-one man, one woman-who were not involved in the protests, were also confronted by police. A policeman was seen slapping the woman and pushing the man away, then told them to leave. They started walking to the gate and were pushed to the ground from behind, and told to lie down on the floor. A student attempting to record events on a cell phone was threatened by police.
The participants and witnesses who compiled this press statement wish to remain anonymous for fear of retribution.