Five arrested after Rhodes upheavals

Riot police yesterday arrested five Rhodes University students who allegedly invaded lecture halls demanding that lectures be stopped.

CLAMPING DOWN: Riot police bundle a protesting Rhodes University students into the back of a waiting van shortly after they allegedly invaded a lecture at the university yesterday Picture: DAVID MACGREGOR
CLAMPING DOWN: Riot police bundle a protesting Rhodes University students into the back of a waiting van shortly after they allegedly invaded a lecture at the university yesterday Picture: DAVID MACGREGOR

Emotions ran high when public order police roughly removed the five students from a lecture hall and bundled them into a police truck.

The five were arrested hours after students allegedly vandalised university toilets, threw punctured aerosol cans into lecture rooms and prevented staff and students from attending class.

University spokeswoman Catherine Deiner confirmed two women students and three men were arrested after the protests.

She said even though protesters had disrupted lectures, thrown rubbish into venues and vandalised property, the academic programme was continuing.

During a busy morning playing cat-and-mouse with police, things came to a head shortly after students were warned to stop disrupting lectures in violation of a high court interdict the university won several months ago.

Given 30 minutes to disperse from the Barret Lecture complex by police or face being fired upon with tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades, the group moved to a nearby building and continued disrupting classes.

The mood of the protesters, who earlier gave flowers to riot policemen monitoring their progress across campus, became angry when police moved in and bundled five people identified as leaders into the back of a waiting truck.

The arrests seemingly took the impetus out of the remaining protesters, who spent a long time strategising on what to do next before moving away.

Several protesters wore scarves wrapped around their faces and some carried sticks.

An earlier Rhodes University statement said that three days of talks to resolve the crisis had collapsed on Sunday, when protesters added another demand to the 13 that had been discussed and resolved.

The additional demand was for the university academic programme to be suspended until Friday.

According to the Rhodes statement, the #FeesMustFall group could not give guarantees that protest action would stop, even if all the demands were met.

“In the context of the additional demand and breakdown in discussions, all agreements made in the course of the past three days now fall away.”

Lecturers formed human chain barricades at the entrance to some lecture theatres to prevent protesters going in to disrupt classes.

Several staff members and students, and Anglican priest Andrew Hunter, wearing white sashes with “peace” written on them, followed the protesters and police to try and prevent emotions from boiling over into violent confrontation.

Hunter said the purpose behind the move was to try and diffuse tension between police and students. But there was little they could do to prevent confrontation if it happened, he added.

According to Hunter, the staff members who blocked protesters from entering a lecture theatre at Eden Grove were verbally abused by angry protesters. — davidm@dispatch.co.za

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