Battle of the Common

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occupy rondebosch INLSA Police remove protester Daniel Corder from the Rondebosch Common. The number of police far outweighed the number of protesters. Photo: David Ritchie

A usually peaceful Rondebosch Common was turned into a war zone on Friday as protesters, outnumbered by a huge police contingent, were sprayed with blue dye, arrested and thrown into the back of police vans.

With many still behind bars at the time of going to press on Friday night, they were, however, undeterred – and warned that Mowbray Golf Club would be next.

Earlier this week mayor Patricia de Lille branded Occupy Rondebosch Common organiser Mario Wanza and his supporters “agents of destruction”. And she had the police out in force from early on Friday in a bid to stop the marchers before they got anywhere near Rondebosch.

Wanza was himself arrested by police in Manenberg early in the day. But, said Farouk Davids, a protester who was with him at the time, he urged the others to continue.

The original plan was to march from various Cape Flats areas such as Mitchells Plain, Manenberg and Hanover Park, gathering at about 2pm at Athlone Stadium and then proceeding to the Common.

The protesters had warned they would “reclaim our right to the city”, occupying the Common to raise awareness about the lack of housing and jobs.

When they arrived at the stadium on Friday, a police function was under way, so they continued on the road to Rondebosch – to be met by a blockade of police who fired water cannons filled with blue dye before any of the group of just less than 40 people even made it off the pavement.

Scenes of chaos followed as police arrested the group, throwing people into the back of police vans, Casspirs and even a police minibus. They were taken to police stations at Mowbray, Claremont and Rondebosch.

Late on Friday night police spokesman Lieutenant Andre Traut said they would appear in court soon.

 

Amelia September, of Proudly Manenberg, said their initial plan to occupy the Common was changed on Wednesday “to show police that we were going to be peaceful”.

“We were going to march to the Common to raise awareness and make authorities aware that we are now pursuing other ways to make ourselves heard.”

Traut was adamant, however, that the event was illegal and said the organisers had not followed procedures. “Police had to act swiftly as lawlessness will not be tolerated anywhere,” he said.

Grant Pascoe, mayoral committee member for tourism, events and marketing, said on Friday night he was was also unaware of any change in the protester’s plan to occupy the Common. He added that the city had always intended respecting their right to protest.

“The unfortunate thing is that they are trying to address the issue of housing, which we are also concerned about,” said Pascoe.

“We would love them to come and discuss it with us through community forums and various other channels. We do not want to see people resorting to illegal activities as we have seen today,” Pascoe said, adding that the city wanted to help people by working with them, “through the community”.

But Jared Sacks, of Communities for Social Change which was helping drive the protest, warned they would “not be deterred”.

“We will occupy every golf course, we will occupy every piece of vacant land until both the DA and ANC governments listen to the people instead of the corrupt business people and big corporates who fund their election campaigns, and dictate land, economic and fiscal policy,” he said.

He even ended in a slanging match with Cosatu’s Tony Ehrenreich, leader of the ANC in the city council, who was among the protesters.

Ehrenreich condemned the police’s decision to use force on the crowd, accusing local government of failing the community.

“The police’s reaction was inappropriate. I am not sure if it is because black people cannot come and protest on the Common.”

He revealed, too, that Cosatu had already applied to gather on the Common next Saturday. He promised that 1 000 protesters would be present.

 

Daniel Ras, from the Mitchells Plain Forum, added his voice to the anger.

“How can this amount of force be available for a peaceful march?” he asked. “Why do police not implement this much manpower to come and sweep crime off the streets of our communities?” - Weekend Argus


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pantsula, wrote

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05:55pm on 30 January 2012
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The DA are terrorists. I support the protestors. the police act as militia to violently attack peaceful protestors. Bloody Agents!

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mdk, wrote

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09:16am on 30 January 2012
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Why not Occupy the Grand Parade? So much closer to town!

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Think!, wrote

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08:46am on 30 January 2012
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Look at the picture - the cops are arresting a white kid - white kids cannot be previously disadvantaged, just as black kids cannot be racist. Therefore the entire thing is a political nonsense. Obviously the toilet saga is so boring and over-complicated by now that someone needed a new strategy to dis the DA, and this was it. But it would have been better to organise only black young protestors and only white cops - these political manoevres need beter photo ops to knock home their point. All is not lost - the organisers can use all the passwords and moves we used 35 years ago to meet without getting imprisoned and killed - although they could actually hold their next planning meeting at a DA coffee-shop without being arrested - unless they're planning something criminal.

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Anonymous, wrote

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11:46am on 29 January 2012
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The most pathetic excuse for a protest march ever. There were more police than protesters as for the privileged white kid who was arrested - just put your energy into something more useful - like building houses or spending valuable time with people

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Anonymous, wrote

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10:42am on 29 January 2012
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Send him back to UK, they are trying to make Ct into one big SQUATTER camp.

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Camilla, wrote

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10:41am on 29 January 2012
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Eish, de Lille has been spending too much time with Zille. Lost all credibility... when you stop talking and send in the bullies each and every time.

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Anonymous, wrote

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10:18am on 29 January 2012
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Fascism.

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Anonymous, wrote

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09:55am on 29 January 2012
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This article is not entirely accurate. Firstly, Tony showed up and tried to take over the protest. The protesters shouted him down and eventually he left because he could not control it to push his own ANC agenda. Secondly, it does not mention that protesters regarded their actions as legal. According to the Gatherings Act, the City did not comply with the necessary procedures in order to ban it. Therefore, by law, by default, the protest becomes legal. De Lille had other motives causing her to ban the protest.

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khalied, wrote

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09:03am on 29 January 2012
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heavy-handed, uncalled for rubbish that makes criminals of our city's rightful citizens! The 80's throwback to kragdagig action begs the question: has this mayor forgotten her roots?

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badballie, wrote

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09:00am on 29 January 2012
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Unfortunately the world has evolved to the point where the only real disruption one can use to get attention is through the occupy protests being staged all over the world. Government and not just ours, but the international collective governments no longer service the community, and no longer place their obligations to the people above their obligations to themselves and the elite. After years of being ignored people have realized that protests and if necessary violent protests such as those seen recently in the so called "Arab Springs" will become a more and more frequent event and violence will be used more and more often to either force those in power to listen, or as a self defence against police brutality.

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Matt, wrote

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09:05pm on 28 January 2012
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Adamastor..er do you live in CT have you been to the Cape Flats lately? Let me guess another Southern SurburbAtlantic Coast resident who lives with blinders on and quite happy to pretend they believe things are happening aka the DA or other party doing anything, anywhere other than in the previously and still mostl and by far white areas. The rest..well most..of Cape Town is a dump and the people (still) live in squalor. Politics has nothing to do with people but with who has power in their little worlds. The politicians simply need "the people" for votes. Zille and her monk.....De Lille are simply following in the ruling parties footsteps as useless arrogant so called politicians who care little past votes. The DA is showing their true colors more and more and it is unfortunate that the ANC does not have exclusivity on stupidity and uselessness.

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Doep, wrote

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08:54pm on 28 January 2012
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Those protesters were used by Ehrenreich for his own ends. Such stupidity. The ONE province in SA where things are more or less working (as opposed to Limpopo) and they are rallying all the would-be revolutionaries with their marxist BS. Well handled De Lille. This protest was illegal. They were warned.

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Joe, wrote

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05:09pm on 28 January 2012
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I grew in the area around the common, and i am cullart, I think Wanza is a fool.. His Mannenberg program turned out to be useless..

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Carl, wrote

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05:09pm on 28 January 2012
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@Adamastor, "heritage site with endangered species?"Have you SEEN the videos of the Metro Police armoured vehicles racing through the fynbos? The arrest of so many Capetonians who have nothing wrong, is more than shameful.

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FreeGuy, wrote

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04:48pm on 28 January 2012
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Police are gangsters, a large majority at least in my experience..

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Adamastor, wrote

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04:26pm on 28 January 2012
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We're all fortunate to live in a DA-led city where there is action taken for housing on the Cape Flats. This protest is nothing but provocation. And the Rondebosch Common is not a site for protest. It's a heritage site with endangered species. The protesters need to grow up and deal through the open channels. It's nothing but adolescent resentment.

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Niall Jack, wrote

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03:44pm on 28 January 2012
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Well done, Patricia de Lille

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