Sea Point erupts in protest chaos over Palestine

Police clashed with pro-Palestine supporters who attempted to get rid of a lone Israeli flag. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane / Independent Newspapers

Police clashed with pro-Palestine supporters who attempted to get rid of a lone Israeli flag. Picture: Ayanda Ndamane / Independent Newspapers

Published Nov 13, 2023


Cape Town - Chaos erupted in Sea Point on Sunday when pro-Palestine and pro-Israel supporters clashed during a protest on the Promenade.

Hundreds of police officers formed a barrier between pro-Palestine supporters, guarding a small group of pro-Israel supporters.

The latter had arranged for a “Prayer and Proclamation for Israel and Israel and South Africa”, at the Mandela Glasses near the Sea Point promenade.

Many of the pro-Palestine supporters had gathered for a picnic on the lawns while expressing their solidarity with Palestine.

The violence was triggered after pro-Palestine supporters tried to remove Israeli flags, saying they didn’t want to see these flags being flown in Cape Town, and police stepped in.

Police arrested four people for public violence, spokesman FC van Wyk confirmed.

He said: “We can confirm that SAPS took action using stun grenades and the water cannon when disgruntled protesters disobeyed instruction by SAPS members to disperse.

“Four adult males were arrested and detained on charges of public violence.

“Once charged they are expected to make a court appearance in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court.”

Several police officers removed Tshisimani Centre for Activist Education member and former head of the Parliamentary Protection Services, Zelda Holtzman. During this, she was manhandled and her cellphone confiscated by police.

“Today, there is genocide happening in Palestine. Bombs are being thrown on Gaza. There are 50 000 pregnant women in Gaza today and phosphorus bombs are being thrown on people who are defenceless.

“We have a responsibility as South Africans to stand against genocide, to stand against apartheid and I came here today to support Palestinians under occupation.”

Pastor Brad Espin from Church on the Rise, part of the pro-Israel group, said: “We’re praying for the hostages but in war, there’re casualties.

“We’re praying for the Palestinian people. But I also know on both sides there’s been a lot of wrong done but when people say free Palestine, they don't realise what they’re saying, ‘From the River to the Sea’, means the annihilation of the Jewish people. We cannot stand for that.”

The liberatory chant does not call for the annihilation of Jews but asserts the rights of Palestinians to exist.

As outbreaks of violence increased, the pro-Israeli group moved their gathering to a different area. It was not cancelled, as was widely reported. Over 100 people could be seen flying Israeli flags at the new area.

The pro-Palestine protesters remained in the presence of over five nyalas, dozens of police vehicles, and hundreds of police.

Late on Sunday night, the three individuals arrested were released on R 1000 bail each at the Green Point Police Station. The three will appear in court on Monday on a charge of public violence.

Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis condemned the violence.

“In the same way that tens of thousands of residents gathered yesterday (Saturday) to protest peacefully, so the planned protest today (Sunday) should have been respected and allowed to proceed peacefully and without interference.”

Hill-Lewis said two firearms were seized and seven people were arrested, contrary to the police’s report. It is unclear who the firearms belonged to.

The march comes a day after Cape Town and South Africa saw the largest demonstration in history, in solidarity with the people of Palestine. Aerial footage of the streets of Cape Town’s CBD filled with protesters as part of the “United Against Genocide” march were shared globally.

More than 40 organisations spanning political parties, religious bodies, human rights and civic organisations, trade unions and youth organisations, among others, joined the peaceful protest by Al Quds Foundation SA and the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC).

The march commenced at Muir Street Mosque, District Six to the City Hall and Western Cape Legislature, in Wale Street.

Mayco member for safety and security JP Smith said: “From an attendance point of view, the officials estimated between 30 000 and 40 000.”

However, there were wide reports that this number breached 100 000.

A memorandum was handed to Parliament’s portfolio committee on international relations and co-operation chairperson Supra Mahumapelo at the Cape Town City Hall.

The demands called for an immediate and permanent ceasefire; opening of humanitarian corridors to allow aid to reach Gaza; the expulsion of Israeli ambassador Eliav Belotserkovsky; the arrest and prosecution of South Africans serving in the IDF; prosecution of South African Zionist organisations and supporters; and to legislate and implement comprehensive boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

Mahumapelo, who accepted the memorandum on behalf of National Assembly Speaker Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, assured a response from the Speaker.

Al Quds Foundation SA director Sheikh Ebrahim Gabriels said the march was in response to silence from Premier Alan Winde’s office in condemning the massacre of over 11 000 civilians, mostly children in Gaza.

An MJC representative said there was no one at the Western Cape Legislature to receive the memorandum of demands.

Anti-apartheid activist Reverend Allan Boesak said the demands could be phrased in three simple words, “shut it down”.

“We did not come here to beg today. We will not stop speaking until it is shut down. We will not stop marching until it is shut down,” he said, referring to the closure of the Israeli embassy, trade with Israel, and the recruiting of South Africans to the IDF.

ANC secretary-general Fikile Mbalula also called for an end to the war in Palestine.

“Our government has shown a sense of movement. We are saying, President Ramaphosa we appreciate it, but you must move faster. The embassy of Israel must close down,” he said.

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