- The police threw stun grenades at a group of women and children as well as a mass rally of bikers near Parliament in Cape Town on Saturday.
- The women and children had been picketing for an end to gender-based violence, while the bikers gathered at their own rally to highlight farm murders.
- The police arrested 18 people on charges that include public violence and one of attempted murder.
Eighteen people were arrested as the police clamped down when bikers, anti-gender-based violence (GBV) protesters and others gathered at around the same time for a march near Parliament on Saturday.
Police spokesperson Captain FC van Wyk said according to reports, a group of about 500 bikers and 400 people with posters participated in a gender-based violence and femicide protest.
They allegedly blocked roads and damaged vehicles in the vicinity of Roeland and Buitenkant streets.
"Members took action to disperse the crowd," he added.
The 18 will appear in the Cape Town Magistrate's Court on Monday as the police investigate cases of public violence, malicious damage to property, transgressions relating to the Disaster Management Act and an attempted murder.
A witness, Pearlie Joubert, who accompanied a group of children to the anti-GBV protest, said she was surprised by the sudden turn of events during an otherwise peaceful day, with people also enjoying the sight of hundreds of motorbikes revving their engines.
She added she was with a group of children bearing signs against gender-based violence with slogans such as: "Stop the violence, no more silence" as a cavalcade of bikers drove past, waving and showing solidarity.
Suddenly stun grenades were heard and people started scattering as green smoke was also released.
"There was absolutely no provocation," said Joubert who had accompanied hers and a friend's children to the picket.
She said the confrontation seemed to start near the Book Lounge at the corner of Buitenkant and Roeland streets.
Roeland Street leading up to Parliament had been closed off, and at the corner, where the Book Lounge is situated, a couple of bikers had tried to turn right towards Parliament.
"I just saw a flash," she said.
"I was so gobsmacked. Usually, you can see that something is going to come."
Joubert remembers about six stun grenades going off, and she gathered the children, reassuring them along the way.
The children were fine afterwards, but she said she could not understand what provoked the police.
She added the bikers had been waving at them as they did their drive-bys, with one wearing a Black Lives Matter badge on his jacket, another with a sign on his bike that read "Freedom in Jesus".
Further video footage sent to News24 shows the stun grenades going off, and later, people being bundled into a police truck.
DA MP Lindy Wilson said she had gone to receive the bikers' petition.
When she approached the place she was expecting to meet them outside Parliament, the police told her it was cordoned off and ordered her to move away.
"I said I am an MP and I am here to accept [the petition]," Wilson said.
Hundreds of bikers were arriving and were also not allowed to enter the area.
"It was peaceful," she added.
However, things suddenly changed.
Her understanding is that some of the bikers attempted to enter the cordoned-off area and an altercation began with the police as they tried to get to Parliament. The groups began supporting each other as the police tried to prevent the bikers from going to Parliament.
The Disaster Management Act regulations currently do not permit gatherings of 50 people or more, which was confirmed by the City of Cape Town last week in an unrelated story. It is not clear yet whether the bikers had obtained a permit.
Ron Darby, the president of the Motorcycle Association of the Western Cape, said they had planned to drive in a circle through parts of the CBD to raise concern over the high rate of crime in the country, which is affecting everybody.
Because of the rain there were fewer bikers than expected, but they had planned to drive via Plein, Roeland, Buitenkant and Darling streets, stop for a moment of silence for victims of crime, and then disperse.
However, the roads were cordoned off, and this caused problems for their planned route, and they encountered a blockade.
Darby said this had made it difficult for motorcyclists trying to turn around, adding the ride seemed to be well received by everybody watching, but things went awry when a police officer pulled one person off his motorbike.
"I think some cops might have been afraid and might have overreacted."
Meanwhile, David Kolm from Bikers Against Bullies told News24 their own mass ride to the Union Buildings was the opposite, with bikers coming from the Free State and far-flung towns to join in, with the police and Outsurance pointsmen assisting traffic flow during their convoy.
He said the rally was to express concern over the safety of farmers, regardless of their race.
"How many more farmers have to be killed?" he asked. "It doesn't matter their skin colour. They are the people who put food on our table."
They laid roses and wreaths, and according to pictures shared on social media, also left white crosses.