Stun grenades stop crowd dead

Four loud bangs from stun grenades – and that was the end of the DA’s “real jobs” march, which suddenly turned into a nightmare.

Thousands of ANC supporters veered towards their target – the country’s largest opposition party, who took to the streets of Johannesburg yesterday for better employment.

The clash could have resulted in bloodied downtown Johannesburg streets; possibly leaving scores injured as some ANC supporters had been spotted carrying bricks, knobkerries, sticks and even a petrol bomb.

Prior to the march, DA leader Helen Zille indicated that despite what was waiting on the other side of town, the DA had to take a stand. “They are armed with bricks,” she said.

“They have gathered in large numbers … but we have to take a stand … this is a democracy … we won’t give up.”

As the tension grew thick in the air during the march, “give up” for the safety of its members is exactly what the DA had to do.

This occurred on Rissik Street where the march had to be stopped due to violence erupting in the road running across it.

There, ANC members had allegedly flung bricks at DA members and had to be stopped by police, who had their hands full with unruly crowds.

“Calm down! Calm down!,” Zille yelled at thousands of DA marchers trying to push forward towards ANC supporters.

The march proceeded down Anderson Street back to the Westgate transport hub, the initial starting point.

A crowd marshal later told The Citizen upon the advice of the police, supporters needed to be dispersed due to “ANC supporters who were coming” towards DA members.

“We had to cut Helen Zille’s speech in half and disperse the crowd safely back to the buses,” he said.

Zille later labelled the ANC as a “violent” and “intolerable” organisation that did not respect the Constitution.

Meanwhile…

Outside the ANC headquaters in Sauer Street, it was all fun and dance.

Until the music stopped.

Then the crowd moved with intent towards its target: the stalled DA supporters on Rissik Street.

At first just a few people peeled off the crowd and moved the rolls of razor wire on President Street to open a route for people to leave. This gave them access to the nearby park through which they could move quickly.

The trickle grew into a flood – and soon the crowd had spilt into the city streets, flowing unchecked towards the DA.

A man in a red T-shirt was handing out torn newspapers for ANC supporters to wrap their rocks and bricks in.

The mood of the crowd had changed: it now had a purpose – and the means with which to carry out its intent.

Police were caught off guard and had to move quickly to regroup. As the groups came within sight of each other, the police were inserted themselves in between the groups.

The quadruple detonation of police stun grenades checked the flow of people: they instantly turned around, heading back to Luthuli House.

Passers-by found a man on his hand and knees. Howls of outrage was heard when they lifted his shirt and saw the twin pock marks left by rubber bullets.

A few ANC Umkhonto we Sizwe guards moved in swiftly and started ushering people back.

As the groups moved back, police vehicles drove behind them, including the only water cannon the police have in Johannesburg, squeezing the group back to the place they swore they would defend: Luthuli House.

The mobile stage began pumping music again and the fun and dance came back to Sauer Street.



today in print

today in print