Protesters taking cover after being teargassed and shot at by the police. All photos by Lilita Gcwabe
The illusion of South Africa’s rainbow nation has become even more unreal at many ex-model C schools.
On Friday, over 2,000 people, mainly members of the Economic Freedom Fighters and the Pan African Congress, gathered to protest against racism at Brackenfell High School. This followed allegations of a “Whites only” matric farewell function that was organised by school parents and attended by some teachers. It was this function that triggered the initial protest by the EFF at the school during the first week of November, which ended in fists flying as parents assaulted the seven EFF picketers.
The Brackenfell High School entrance was barricaded with barbed wire to keep protesters out and far from the school grounds. Although the High school principal was said to be waiting for the memorandum, matriculants were allegedly moved from the school to write exams at a different venue.
Bus 17 was one of the vehicles that transported more than 100 “fighters” from different areas in the Western Cape to Brackenfell High School. Police ordered busses to park more than 500m away from the school
Protesters joined hands on their way to meet others before moving together towards the high school to submit their memorandum.
The number of protesters marching to the school grew quickly. Some arrived with sticks and stones as symbols of their readiness to battle the predicted violent retaliation by an alleged racist police force. The EFF leadership appointed marshals to assist in leading the group towards the school.
Soon after the larger crowd started marching towards the school, the police sprayed copious volumes of a blue coloured liquid from inyala police vehicles that caused a burning, peppery sensation on the skin and started throwing cans of teargas at the marching crowd.
Protesters who were huddling together near the gates of a nearby shopping centre, in big groups to protect each other from the burning liquid, were attacked with teargas and chased away from the centre.
A “fighter” demanded to know why the police attacked them while they were marching peacefully towards the school. She demanded to know why the police were armed with guns and ordering more force against them since they arrived in peace.
The police stood, unshaken over the blood-like residue from the liquid the police were using to spray protesters as they observed their growing number.
The police and EFF spokesperson, Vuyani Pambo, argued over the size of the delegation to deliver the memorandum to the school. The EFF wanted the whole group to enter so as not to divide their numbers but the police official maintained that their permit allowed for just 100.
An address by EFF leadership was disrupted by a White man who claimed to have a question. The protesters saw this as a disrespectful display of White privilege, and started to physically assault him and chased him out of the crowd. The police dispersed the crowd with rubber bullets and inyala vehicles.
Although the protest ended without the submission of the memorandum, protestors believed they had sent a clear message to racists by arriving in their numbers. EFF supporters vowed to return and lead another protest against racism at the school.
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