back to top
World

This Intense Video Shows Police Opening Fire At Protesting Students In South Africa

Protesters demanding that colleges across South Africa make college more affordable for poor students were met with rubber bullets and arrest.

Posted on

Video shot on Wednesday shows police dragging away a student and shooting others with rubber bullets to disperse a protest demanding cheaper college for low-income students.

View this video on YouTube

youtube.com

The altercation took place at Rhodes University in Grahamstown, South Africa, where classes have been shut down for the last week in the face of demonstrations.

The video, filmed by Stuart Wilson, a member of student media outlet Oppidan, opens with police interacting with a group of students soon after the arrest of several other students across campus.

Oppidan Press / Via youtube.com

Protests have been banned on Rhodes' campus for the last several months, after a different protest movement — this one against rape culture at the university — resulted in an interdiction against demonstrations, banning students from blocking roads, disrupting classes, and other actions.

That in turn has given the police the responsibility to disperse protests and arrest offenders. At one point in the video, a police officer can be heard telling a group of students on campus grounds moving towards the sidewalk where the police had gathered "Get back! Get back or I will shoot you!"

The earlier arrests spurred students to march across campus, at one point blocking the roads for five minutes to dance and chant protest slogans, before moving on to the point where the video begins.

Oppidan Press / Via youtube.com

"Are you going to shoot me for crossing the road?" one of the protesters asks the police as he crosses the street away from campus. "You do not know our pain, our families' pain!" he yelled at the bystanders on the other side of the median.

Soon after the lead protester crossed back, raising his fist and prompting the others to do the same, the police opened fire.

Oppidan Press / Via youtube.com

All told ten people were arrested at Rhodes University on Wednesday. Police told local media that they were under threat from students throwing rocks, which necessitated them opening fire, an explanation that students dispute.

"A few students did pick up rocks, and one rock was thrown at a car from the sidewalk, at which point the police responded with a stun grenade and rubber bullets," Leila Kidson, editor of Oppidan Press, told BuzzFeed News.

Oppidan Press / Via youtube.com

"In the video it can be heard that the police are telling a student to drop a bottle, but that bottle was never thrown, and only one or two rocks were thrown and did not hit any of the police," Kidson said in a Twitter direct message exchange. "The police have said that they 'had' to respond with rubber bullets as they were being pelted with rocks, which is evidently not true in that video."

The protests are the latest in South Africa after a year of clashes between university students and the government.

Mike Hutchings / Reuters

Last year's #FeesMustFall protests set the stage for this year's fee protests, when the government agreed to abandon plans for a 6% tuition hike across the board at universities in 2016. This year, however, the country's education minister announced an 8% hike in student fees for the next year, before punting the decision to the universities themselves in the face of renewed hostility from students.

That in turn spawned this year's demonstrations, which are calling for both a freeze in tuition increases and the implementation of a sliding scale of fees for students, where those whose families make less than the equivalent of $46,000 US per year receive free tuition.

Hayes Brown is a world news editor and reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Hayes Brown at hayes.brown@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.