“We’ll take it back to the streets” — Westbury residents

Westbury residents have come out in their numbers for a face to face meeting with Police Minister Bheki Cele. But protesters say the meeting will not happen until those arrested on Monday are released.

On Monday, eight protesters were arrested for public violence. At the gates of the Sophiatown police station, a resident told the Mail & Guardian that they will not let Cele address the community until they are released.

On Tuesday, a large group of Westbury residents congregated outside the police station, on the edge of the embattled, mostly coloured, community.

Some shouted: “We must burn the place down.”

The community began protesting on Friday after a woman was fatally shot in the crossfire between alleged gang members on Thursday. A 10-year-old was also injured in the melee and remains in hospital in a critical condition.

The protests have become increasingly violent as police responded to crowds with teargas, pepper spray and rubber bullets.

The community remained undeterred however, protesting and marching in the streets.

Gauteng police commissioner Deliwe de Lange visited the community on Monday and promised that the police would stand down if the protesters stopped throwing stones at them and proceeded peacefully.

The Sophiatown police station is at the heart of the conflict in the community. One resident, who asked not to be named, told the M&G that the community is tired of the police not helping them fight the scourge of drug abuse.

“They are not doing their job. When we call them about someone that is dealing drugs, they don’t come out,” she said.

While everyone points to gangsterism as the community’s major problem, no one is attending to the problem of drugs, she added. “We will take it back to the streets.”

At the police station Bishop Dalton Adams, a local religious leader, tried to calm the community, imploring them to allow him into the station so he can hear what is being said in the meeting with Cele.

“Let me go in and hear what they have to say. Then I will come back to you and report back,” Adams said, standing between incensed residents and police.

Adams further explained to the community that if the eight detainees that have been arrested are not officially booked in, they will not be released.

But his presence failed to pacify the crowd, as small scuffles continued to break out between members of the community and the authorities, who became increasingly regimented in controlling the crowd.

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Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit
Sarah Smit is a general news reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She covers topics relating to labour, corruption and the law.

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