AN OPEN INVITATION TO JOIN A PROTEST AGAINST POLICE BRUTALITY AT THE JOHANNESBURG CENTRAL POLICE STATION ON NATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS DAY: 21 March 2014: 10:00 - 12:00
RIGHT2KNOW PROTEST RALLY IN JOHANNESBURG AGAINST POLICE BRUTALITY ON HUMAN RIGHTS DAY
To voice our outrage at increasing police brutality and the growing attacks on the right to protest, the Right2Know Campaign will hold a protest rally on Friday, 21 March (Human Rights Day), at the Johannesburg Central Police Station.
The Right2Know Campaign is both saddened and outraged at the increasing incidences in recent months of protesters being killed by the police. The police killings of protestors around the country are a symptom of the growing attacks on the right to protest in South Africa, fuelled by the militarisation of the police and criminalisation of protest.
The Right 2 Know Campaign supports calls made by various organisations to demilitarise the police, as we believe that this is driving greater police violence, including against protestors.
The right to protest is a critical dimension of our Constitutional freedoms of expression and assembly. We must all defend the right to protest with the same passion and vigilance we give to defending press freedom and other aspects of freedom of expression.
- that the people’s right to protest, freedom of assembly and freedom of expression be respected and protected by the police
- that the police must abide by relevant laws and regulations
- the demilitarization of the police, and that the police be trained to deal with peaceful protests and de-escalate violence
- zero tolerance of police shootings of non-armed protesters, and for heads to roll/resignations to come if serious injury or death at protests occur
THE POLICE MUST CHANGE:
Why is our police force is so violent? Why has the number of cases of police brutality risen by 313 % in the last 10 years (much of it while policing protests)? Is such police violence a result of the call made by the President himself, in his state of the nation address last year, and later by Minister Cwele in his budget speech, to police protests more vigilantly in order to curb “threats to national security”?
Too often media, civil society and government pay attention to the plight of the poor only once streets are barricaded and property destroyed. What is ignored is these are often the last act in long-simmering tensions that have no other avenue for ventilation. Formal avenues for the expression of grievances have often become dysfunctional. Many communities active in the R2K Campaign complain that when they follow the Regulation of Gatherings Act to the letter, and deliver memoranda of grievances to the relevant institutions, they are simply ignored. This communicates the inevitable message that lawful methods of communicating grievances do not work; that the media and government will come running only if protestors burn tyres, erect barricades and burn down councillors’ houses.
Lawful channels such as the Ward/Councillor system through which their grievances could be ventilated have, in many instances, been closed off through corruption, politicking and incompetence. Furthermore, many municipalities have implemented legally dubious rules that make it difficult, if not impossible, for communities to exercise their right to protest lawfully, while at the same time requiring protests to fall within the ambit of the law. These factors are forcing more and more people onto the streets anyway, leading to confrontations with the police, who perceive the protest to be ‘illegal’.
The growing criminalisation of protests is an attack on freedom of expression and assembly. The right to protest was at the heart of the democratic struggle for freedom. Mobilising brute force against unarmed individuals is an insult not just to the freedoms of expression and assembly enshrined in our Constitution; it is a rejection of the legacy of the struggle for which thousands paid the ultimate price.