LOOK: Police blast peaceful picket at Parliament with water cannon, then injure waitress at coffee shop
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Cape Town – So over-the-top was the actions of the SAPS outside his Cape Town CBD shop on Friday that the owner, David Donde, thought he was back in the 1980s facing the apartheid police's water cannon armed with purple dye.
A social media user described the police’s actions in general during a peaceful hospitality industry picket as a "great morning terrorising innocent and jobless people, taking immense pleasure in spraying them with high-pressure freezing water, throwing stun grenades, shoving and arresting as their hearts desired".
Donde was perplexed by what could have prompted the police's actions outside Truth Coffee in Buitenkant Street. They had long left the peaceful picket in Roeland Street outside Parliament, only to find the police had driven several hundred metres down Roeland Street, turned into Buitenkant Street and stopped outside his shop "with water cannon blazing", injuring a waitress in the process.
Classic South African Police Service. Nowhere to be seen when we’re in danger but always early on the scene when word of...Posted by Maxine Wilcox on Friday, July 24, 2020
The police not only targeted Truth Coffee staff who took part in the protest, but even blasted patrons at a nearby shop off their chairs who had nothing to do with the protest.
Commenting on how it all started, Donde told IOL: "We all trundled into Roeland Street with our ribbons and a gap between us and a gap between every 15 people. They gave everyone five minutes to disperse in Roeland Street outside Parliament and then almost started immediately with the stun grenades and water cannons.
"The protest at no stage was anything but peaceful. There was absolutely nothing that prompted police aggression, we are just not that kind of crowd.
"Then we wandered all the way back to Buitenkant Street. We were hanging around in front of the shop, maybe 20 to 30 people with signs, and suddenly the cops came down water guns blazing, the works. They blasted water into our shop and knocked one of our waiters off her feet, and she was the one hurt.
"This reminds me of the purple protests in the 1980s I was part of. I haven't seen anything like it since then, it was bizarre. I am not sure what laws we were breaking. There were no groups of more than 15 people, everyone was 1.5m apart before it got broken up."
"The water cannon literally park outside my coffee shop for the rest of the non-event. They also sprayed this cafe which didn't have anyone from the protest there. There were literally patrons sitting at tables who got blasted off their chairs."
Mayor Dan Plato slammed the police for using “heavy-handed tactics against peaceful hospitality industry protesters", which were held under the slogans #JobsSaveLives and #ServeUsPlease.
Plato said the hospitality industry “should be supported by national government, not shut down by the police”.
Donde said: "My staff are grossly disappointed at the state and this incident has increased their solidarity for the industry. We will happily take part in another protest. My suggestion to one of the organisers was, 'let's do this every Friday'.
Stun grenades and water canon used to disperse protesters outside Parliament. Protesters from the hospitality and tourism industry are protesting. @GroundUp_News #serveusplease pic.twitter.com/DQkFtnUDra— Ashraf Hendricks (@AshrafRSA) July 24, 2020
"It was a peaceful, legitimate protest that had purpose, I don't see the harm. The whole idea of the protest was to do everything that didn’t require a permit
"It is interesting that there have been so many other protests that have been completely ignored. There have been lots of petitions handed in, which was the agenda today.
"The hospitality industry is not being taken seriously and the jobs that we provide are not being taken seriously, which is odd. If you look at the taxi industry and how seriously it is taken, I think it's definitely a smaller employer.
"It might be more critical in terms of people's lives but not in terms of people's livelihoods. And yet the government is bending over backwards for them, gives them handouts.
"My staff have not received a single cent of UIF, my TERS application was turned down by the bank because we didn't have turnover during Covid. We are really left nowhere.
"It is an untenable situation. Maybe a little bit of compassion would be a better alternative than what I can only describe as police brutality."
DA parliamentary chief whip Natasha Mazzone said transport spokesperson Manny de Freitas was blasted off his feet by the water cannon, TimesLive reported.
Mazzone said apart from Truth Coffee, an internet cafe and patrons at the Swan Café were targeted.
“I’ve asked the shadow minister of police Andrew Whitfield to contact the owners of Truth because one of their waitresses was hurt when the water cannon was opened in their shop,” she said.
“I’ve asked the internet cafe owner, whose shop is destroyed, his computers are ruined, because his shop is flooded – I was ankle deep in water in his shop – to lay charges with Ipid (the Independent Police Investigative Directorate).
“I’m going to lay charges with Ipid about what I saw and we are taking it forward from there.”