Five students were arrested this morning at Rhodes University in relation to protests against sexual violence that started on Monday.
The students had closed off the Grahamstown campus at various entry points using furniture, brooms, sticks and stones. This prompted police intervention after they received reports of an “illegal gathering” taking place.
Police spokesperson Mali Govender said warning shots were fired to disperse the crowd but students failed to adhere to instructions.
University staff also tried to help the police to unblock the road, but were met with resistance. One student, Phiwokuhle Tom, said university registrar Dr Stephen Fourie, was one of the staff members who demanded that the barricades be removed.
“Police started shooting us with rubber bullets and used pepper spray. We dispersed but more vans arrived. They man-handled students and put them in the police van,” she said.
Two females, among the five who were arrested, faced charges relating to the Regulation of Gatherings Act. Govender said they were due to appear in the Grahamstown Magistrates’ Court shortly.
University Vice-Chancellor Dr Sizwe Mabizela was seen earlier pleading with police to release the students after their capture. One suffered a panic attack while in the back of a police van.
Protests on campus had been rife since Sunday night, when a list of alleged rapists was circulated on social media. This sparked a call for a students council representative to step down because he was on the list.
The students demonstrated topless yesterday to emphasise that a women’s naked body was not an invitation or reason to sexually assault her. They have vowed to protest and disrupt university operations until action is taken against those accused of sexual assault at the institution.