21 october 2015 students protest at UCT
21 october 2015 students protest at UCT

#ShutItDown

By Busisiwe Nxumalo, Student Protester Time of article published Oct 23, 2015

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The Cape Argus invited student co-editors to edit today's edition of the newspaper.

This article was written, commissioned and edited by the students involved in the #FeesMustFall protest. 

Cape Town - The decision had already been made by the student worker alliance at UCT to protest against fee increases and outsourcing days before the public announcement of a national shutdown of all higher education institutions as a result of ongoing protests.

The alliance resolved to march on Parliament, apart from other affiliates and political parties and organisations who sought to gain political mileage from the protests.

Unarmed activists filled buses from UCT, singing as they made their way to Parliament to join their CPUT and UWC comrades.

On De Waal Drive, our bus was met by police, blocking access to Roeland and Plein streets. Other vehicles were allowed to proceed. Police ordered the bus to turn around and “go back to where it came from”.

“Why can’t we go through?” students and workers asked in confusion.

The police were waiting outside the bus, armed with stun grenades and tear gas.

Read: Giving #FeesMustFall a voice

As the protesters attempted to disembark, police aggressively blocked people from exiting. Tempers boiled over, with police shouting and becoming physical with protesters.

Undeterred, they managed to disembark and joined fellow comrades on the streets who had also received the same treatment from the police.

Before the group could continue their march in the heat, police announced: “You are not allowed to gather in groups of more than five.” The protesters drew together, fearing arrest in the face of multiple police threats.

One of the people in the group was pulled from the crowd and bundled into the back of an awaiting police van.

“What have I done, please let me go,” he said.

“Release our comrade, he has done nothing wrong,” the crowd shouted in frustration. Police responded by saying: “This is an illegal gathering. You are not allowed to gather in groups of more than five.”

A black woman then shouted: “This is not apartheid.”

The comrade was released after continuous demands from protesters. The alliance then peacefully resumed their journey.

Read: Gatherings Act: pasop, black child

They eventually reached Parliament to join fellow protesters from CPUT and UWC. The protesters continued to sing, dance and chant “fees must fall” and “end outsourcing”. These strategies were employed by the crowd with the intention of rousing Minister of Higher Education, Dr Blade Nzimande, to leave Parliament and address their demands. Hours went by in the boiling sun with no reply coming from the halls of Parliament.

Unarmed protesters, holding their hands above their heads, only entered Parliament’s grounds when police opened the gates.

The police immediately started violently pushing the crowd backward.

A small group slipped past the police cordon and sat in front of the stairs leading up to the National Assembly, chanting: “We want Blade!”

Immediately after that, the police, accompanied by the riot unit and six snipers, arrived to deal with protesters. The protesters sat down to show their intentions were peaceful.

Police then opened fire on the crowd. Stun grenades and tear gas were thrown. Several protesters were also physically assaulted. The protesters were screaming, crying and running away in fear for their lives. In the mist of the pink smoke, you could barely make out a sign that read “1976?”.

When the smoke eventually cleared, the crowd regrouped with their hands in the air and sung the national anthem to show that they were still protesting peacefully.

The police again opened fire. After the tear gas smoke cleared, it was evident that there were wounded activists who needed immediate medical care.

“Look, the skin has peeled off on the leg,” a protester wailed in between sobs.

A number of students were arrested throughout the week, and one who was arrested on Wednesday, was released on Thursday morning before being rearrested in the afternoon.

  Student Protester Glossary of Terms

* Decolonisation is the removal of all unjust systems: such as patriarchy, racism and capitalism in society and the restructuring of society to reflect African systems.

* Black: All racially oppressed people of colour. This political identity goes against the divisive racial categories that were formed during apartheid, such as Indian, Coloured and African. “Black”, as a political identity, unites all people of colour who have been socially, politically and economically oppressed.

* Violence is an experience of structural oppression. This experience can translate into physical violence, emotional and psychological violence through violent words, institutional processes, actions and behaviour that are directed at black people in order to dehumanise them. A reaction to this violence is not violence itself, but a defence against dehumanisation.

* Black pain is the dehumanisation of black people, which is a daily struggle that comes from the violence that exists in systems that privilege whiteness or is institutionally racist.

* Whiteness is a system that privileges white people at the expense of black people. It is present in all institutions in South African society and it is assumed to be the standard of how things should be, but it is inherently racist.

* Patriarchy is an unjust political-social system that insists that males are inherently dominant and superior. Everyone else is deemed weak – especially females.

* LGBTQIA + and gender non-conforming people. This system privileges men and oppresses everyone that does not conform to the gender roles that society expects. LGBTQIA + – for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender/transsexual, intersex, queer and asexual people.

* White privilege is a set of advantages or access to certain benefits that have been exclusively developed for white people. White people have white privilege because a system of whiteness is present in South Africa and across the globe, which means that society is structured around white people and their culture.

* Black Feminism is a consciousness highlighting black women’s experiences in society, which often go unnoticed because black women face alienation based on race, gender and other social factors. This leads to an experience only black women can speak and write about, and from which knowledge can be created.

Cape Argus

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