The morning was off to an early start. We mobalised on campus, joining our fellow students in song. By 8am, 33 students had already been arrested for blocking entrances and we listened to chilling voice notes of the day’s first firing of stun granades.
The group called on other students to join us as we made our way through campus. In an attempt to reach other campuses, we took to the streets. We effectively closed down lanes as we made our way. The police at this point were onlookers.
As we turned a corner, there was tension. Looking up at the police who were blocking the way, I spotted a colleague reporting on the event. She was filming and signaled us to move back. In that instant, my friend and I immediately responded by turning to run when a stun grenade was fired at us, in very close proximity.
It shook us with a loud bang and smoke, causing terror and dispersion. As we got away to what we thought was safety, more were being fired. Students were sent running in the opposite direction of the road, causing a frenzy. Some fell over as we ran onto the off ramp. I’m not sure why the police decided on this kind of action and at this point specifically.
My friend and I ran as fast as we could, until we couldn’t anymore. Rather than occupying the road, the students came to a park- a public space. Walking through, we quickly noticed that we were not alone. Police were surrounding us. Students moved forward and ran away from the police in momentary fear in waves, unsure of what was to happen. We sat down, showing our non-violent stance. Some had panic attacks while others were sent rolling down hills.
As we emerged back on to the sidewalk, we stood with our student cards in the air. Minutes before, we approached police with our hands above our heads to no effect. We marched on along the sidewalk, reaching the other campus.
In order to get back to main campus, we needed to walk in the streets again. The police were adamant that they would shoot us (at least 300 people) with their rubber bullets if they did. We held hands, forming an orderly chain as we defied them. On our journey, we were greeted by onlookers and walked in song.
We returned to the Great Hall where we would have a students-only meeting. The entrances were blocked by private security, dressed in riot gear (the university has a court interdict). Calls were made for access to be granted, but they were denied. Scuffles broke out between students and security.
This is when things got heated. Water bottles were thrown at the security, which quickly escalated to rocks being thrown. The security were protected by their gear and had the advantage of being above us on the steps. In retaliation, they threw rocks back at students. The students were unarmed, without protection and were below the security, making it a fight that would never be fair. Their reaction angered students further, adding fuel to the fire. Police then arrived on the scene, where access was granted to the students.
This is a recall of Day 2 of Fees Must Fall Reloaded. We are fighting for free education now. I will continue to update you and give follow ups on the incredible leadership, the reasons the protest makes me emotional and my decision to join as a student rather than a journalist.
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Photo: Aarti Bhana