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Why the cops lose control

13 February 2014, 10:45

It is clear why the cops usually have no control over marchers when things go violent.  Yesterday all the roads were cordoned off around Luthuli House in preparation of the DA’s march for “real” jobs.  Two or three cops loiter about at each of their temporary road blocks.  One redirects the traffic while the others stand about exchanging recipes.

 At first ANC supports starts arriving in drips and drabs.  They haven’t assembled into the usual singing mob.  They were merely hovering about probably trying to find the front.  I didn’t see any DA supports.  I guess I was on the wrong side of town.

An elderly man and his friend pass me by on the street.  Unmistakably an ANC support because nobody in their right mind wears such unfashionable t-shirts with a baby face of JZ on the chest.  The man had a neatly trimmed beard.  The slight gray in his beard revealed his age.  He is not old but he certainly is not a young man anymore.  Maybe he has kids or even grandchildren.  He has the stature of an experienced wise family man who should set an example for the next generation.  In his hand he carries a long thin stick neatly debarked.  As he walks by he warms up his arm as if in preparation to give a child a good whipping.  However this occasion won’t present a disobedient nephew or a disrespectful child.  It is clear what his attentions might be!

Further down the street a young man in an ANC kit picks up a rock from the pavement and proceeds towards Luthuli house.  Another man passes by the police with sambok in hand.  The one cop has a brief conversation and lets the guy proceed with weapon in hand.

It is at this point that I wondered why the cops where idly standing about instead of purposefully disarm everybody.  If someone has a stick confiscate it, if someone has a bar of soap in a sock confiscate it, if they arrive with alcohol confiscate it and if they pick up a rock arrest the person. 

This is one of the reasons why the cops lost control of Marikana and why yesterday the singing mob of ANC supporters digressed into a bunch of ill-mannered louts burning flags, hurling rocks and petrol bombs at the cops and the opposition, and in general behaving like peasants.

Much of this can be prevented or at least suppressed if marchers are disarmed before entering their front of attack.

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