Protesting for newbies: A how-to guide

2017-04-06 08:33
Paramedics protest over attacks against their colleagues (Jenni Evans, News24)

Paramedics protest over attacks against their colleagues (Jenni Evans, News24)

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Cape Town – When protesters who marched to Parliament last week over the state of the country’s politics began singing Kumbaya my Lord, Twitter users erupted with laughter, disbelief and even anger. (See more here)

Many questioned why people were not familiar with the songs commonly sung at protest gatherings. Others believed it was embarrassing to not know how to protest.

We’re not judging. You may have had a lot of questions about what to bring or how to sing.

One of the first things to remember is that protests are not about selfies or a "fun day out".

People generally take to the streets to voice their frustration and anger about something affecting their lives. With many other options exhausted, they are trying to make their voices heard.

With several protests planned for the days ahead, here is a general guide to what you need to know.

Is it legal to protest peacefully?

Yes, despite what one tweet from the government suggested. It stated: "When citizens take to the streets illegally, we often witness violence, destruction of property and lawlessness" and "illegal protests do not possess the characteristics of strengthening democracy".

The Constitution says that everyone has the right to peacefully assemble, demonstrate, picket and present petitions. No one may be armed, wear clothing that makes them look like the police or army officials, block entrances to emergency services buildings, or incite violence or hatred.

The Regulation of Gatherings Act states that you must exercise your right peacefully with due regard to the rights of others. In terms of the act, the convener of the protest must notify the municipality, so it knows how many people will be there and they can organise metro police and other services to help.

Police are present to help with crowd control and should only act if there is a criminal offence or threat to public safety. They do not have the right to disperse a protest just because no notice was given. That said, you can still be arrested if you fail to follow a lawful police order.

What should I bring?

 - Comfortable shoes for walking
 - Water
 - Snacks (for yourself and to share)
 - Sunblock
 - A poster with a well-thought out message
 - An open mind to understand others
 - Rain coat
 - Forms of identification
 - A scarf to wet and wrap around your face should police use pepper spray or teargas to disperse the crowd

What do I sing?

We’re sure you have no problem figuring out the message you wish to shout out or chant. When it comes to singing though, there is no excuse not to know popular songs when technology, friends and colleagues are at your disposal.

Many songs of hope and struggle that were used successfully to unite people during apartheid continue to be sung today. As media studies researcher and journalist Sisanda Nkoala stated in her paper on struggle songs, the isiXhosa and isiZulu lyrics were deliberately chosen because of their political and linguistic significance.

A fist raised in the air with the word "Amandla" requires you to respond with "Awethu" or "Ngawethu!"

It is a rallying cry that means "power to the people". Sometimes it means you need to be quiet so someone can speak or give an instruction.

Here is a nifty video by YouTube user ZoZoZu that explains 12 struggle songs with lyrics and translations:

Read more on:    cape town  |  cabinet reshuffle  |  protests

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