| CAPE TOWN

Rastafarians protest against police brutality

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Ronelle Thyssen protests against police brutality. Photo by Masixole Feni.
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An article by Eduard Grebe highlighting police brutality spurred the Cape Town Rastafarian community to protest outside Woodstock Police Station today.

Grebe described his arrest for filming an alleged assault by a police officer.

A small group of about 20 protesters, most of them from the community of Wesbank in Kuilsriver, sang and danced along Main Road outside the police station, much to the joy of taxi drivers who showed their support by hooting and waving at them. Some of the drivers held up fists as a salute to the Rastafarians. The protesters held placards saying “Stop police brutality” and “Rasta rise against police brutality”.

Deputy convener of the protest Grant Marais said, “We are here today because of the incident that happened last week where Eduard Grebe and one of the members of the Rastafarian community, Ras Joseph, were brutalised. We want to express our dismay and dissatisfaction at the conduct of the two policemen. They blatantly disregarded the onus of respecting the diverse community of South Africa … We are violated and brutalised by the police. They are using the Rastafarian community as a soft target despite the fact that we do not pose a criminal threat to South African citizens, the government or the police.”

Short dreadlocks with one thick lock resting on the right side of his neck, wearing a shirt which is splashed with the colours yellow, red and green, Clinton Hakskeen from Kuilsrivier showed GroundUp the healed scar under his left eye, which he says was the result of police brutality.

“I was a victim of police brutality late last year in my community. I run a fruit and vegetable stall and on that day I was at my stall on the corner and playing my guitar. Then two guys came and they stood at the stall and they listened to my music. Out of nowhere about four police vans came. About eight officers came to us and without a word started searching us. They found nothing, then they started searching my stall and even there they found nothing. They came across my cultural cup which I use to store my religious marijuana, but it was empty. There was nothing in it and it was lying on the floor. One of the officers asked me what it was and I told him and he said ‘Moenie kak praat nie, ek moer jou nou’ [English translation: ‘Don’t talk shit. I’ll fuck you up’]. Then he threw a stone at me, which hit me on my face and I started bleeding. At this point there was a crowd of people watching and recording. I encouraged them and as I did that, before the police left, one of the officers, a woman, took my fruit and veg packs and started throwing them around. They left my stall damaged. I reported the incident and opened a case at the Mfuleni police station but nothing came of it. When I go to the police station to inquire about the case, the police are not interested in what I have to say,” said Hakskeen.

John Lesch hands over memo. Photo by Masixole Feni.
John Lesch hands over a memorandum to Major G Wewer. Photo by Masixole Feni.

Another protester, Alfredo Fritz, said, “A few days ago we had a little event at the community park in Wesbank, where a group of us were playing music and eating, just having fun. It was not the first time we did something like this. A policeman came and tried to disturb us, but I asked him why he was doing this even though he knew about the gathering. He said nothing then he left. At the end of the event, on my way home the same policeman came to me. He was with another officer and they had followed me. He said to me ‘We meet again. You’re not so brave now when you’re not with your friends ne? Ek moer jou nou [English translation: I’ll fuck you up now].”. I didn’t say anything I just looked at him, he kept provoking me, wanting me to say something so that he could beat me, but I kept quiet until he let me go.”

The protesters had also drafted a memorandum to the station commander who was not available because he was at a three day workshop. The memorandum, accepted by the acting station commander, who identified himself as Major G Wewer, demanded that the policemen identified in last week’s incident be held accountable and suspended. It also said if any brutalisation and victimisation against Rastafarians occurs again, “Be sure that we will rightfully defend ourselves by any means necessary.” They gave the station commander seven days to respond.

Wewer said he would make sure that the station commander receives the memorandum. Earlier, he had told journalists that no case of police brutality was reported to the Woodstock police station and he was not aware of any complaints brought against his colleagues. “The information I heard about the incident and a supposed video, I heard from the police communications officer. I have not even seen any media reports about it.”

Eduard Grebe has emailed GroundUp the complaints that he has lodged with the Western Cape Police Ombudsman and the Independent Police Investigative Directorate. The complaints deal with his alleged unlawful arrest and the two assaults he says he saw police officers perpetrate. He is considering further legal options.

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TOPICS:  Government Human Rights Police brutality Policing

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