South African Police, Students Clash on Campus

South African Police, Students Clash on Campus

A university in South Africa descended into violence on Monday, Oct. 3, after police fired tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon at stone-throwing students who are disputing with administrators and the government over free education.

Witnesses say stun grenades and gunshots cracked as police cleared protesters from the main plaza on the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg’s campus. The demonstration was prompted by a student movement that recently shut other universities and prompted official warnings that badly needed medics, engineers and other skilled workers might not be able to graduate this year.

The clash began after students began throwing rocks at private security guards blocking the entrance to the Great Hall. Police vehicles were brought in to confront the unruly protesters, but little could be done to stop the flow of events. Protesters spilled into the city as the demonstration violently continued. At one point, a bus was set on fire, billowing smoke into the streets.

The university, also known as Wits, accused students of throwing rocks "that could have maimed or killed people" and said protesters had responded to negotiation offers from the campus administration with threats. At least two people were arrested and some minor injuries were reported, the university said.

South African police said they were afraid the agitators were trying to goad officers into “another Marikana,” a reference to the police shootings of 34 miners during labor unrest in 2012. Witnesses at the protests worry that people will eventually be killed at the demonstrations.

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