“We will gather and lay headstones at Johannesburg Central Police Station to commemorate those who have been killed by the police, including those murdered at Marikana in August 2012, the at least 44 other people who have been killed by the police in protests since 2004 and the scores of people who have experienced brutality at the hands of the police during protests,” said R2K Gauteng coordinator and spokesperson Dale McKinley. “The police killings of protestors around SA are a symptom of the growing attacks on the right to protest, fuelled by the militarisation of the police and the criminalisation of protest,” it added.
In R2K’s 2014 State of the Nation report it claims seven people were killed by police during protests at the time of publication of the report. R2K compared the 2014 statistic to the three people allegedly killed by police in 2004. “There has been a general upward trend over the past 10 years,” the report reads. This is demonstrated by a graph showing that in 2010 police killed three protesters in South Africa, 10 were killed in 2011 and 42 in 2012, 37 of whom were killed during the Marikana massacre. In 2013, the reports said 11 protesters were killed. The statistics in the R2K report are from the University of Johannesburg’s Social Change Research Unit titled “Community Protests 2004-2013”.
The Independent Police Investigative Directorate received 5 745 complaints during the 2013/2014 financial year, of which 3 916 were cases of assault, 78 for torture and 390 deaths as a result of police action. Institute for Security Studies senior researcher Johan Burger quoted the SAPS annual report for 2012/13, saying police responded to 13 575 “crowd-related” incidents, 1 907 (14%) of which were violent or “unrest related” and 11 668 (86%) peaceful. “This works out to an average of 32 ‘peaceful’ and five ‘unrest’ incidents daily. However, while peaceful incidents showed an increase of just over 47% when compared to 2009/10 (7 913 incidents), incidents involving violence increased almost twice as fast (92%) from 994 in 2009/10,” said Burger.
McKinley added: “The right to protest is a critical dimension of our constitutional freedoms. We must all defend the right to protest.”