Rastafari feel like easy target
KNYSNA NEWS – The peace-loving Rastafarian community members of Judah Square are currently consulting with their legal representatives regarding a possible class action lawsuit against the Minister of Police after an early morning SAPS raid at 06:00 on Tuesday, March 27.According to traumatised and furious eyewitnesses, at least seventeen police vans and more than 50 police officers from different strike teams were used to raid the Rastafarians while several were attending their morning devotions in their tabernacle. It is said that the police used unnecessary force and violence, throwing stun grenades, unprovoked, into the crowd of people, including terrified children. Evidence of damage to private property by the police was recorded on several cellphones when the residents returned to their homes or while they were trying to stop the police from breaking the place down. In one instance, a woman’s front and back security gates were forced open by the police and she was shocked to find the officers helping themselves to her avocados, chilies and tomatoes in her garden. “They come here supposedly because we are breaking the law by growing dagga, but what are they doing? They are common thieves and such ‘tweegesig’ [two-faced] hypocrites!” Eyewitnesses said that the woman was told “You talk too much,” before being loaded into the back of a van. It is unclear whether this is the same 47-year-old individual who was released on R1 000 bail on Wednesday morning, March 28 for illegal possession of dagga. Her case was postponed to Tuesday, May 15. For all the effort and drama, only three individuals were arrested. Apart from the woman, the chief of the Judah Square community, Noel ‘Maxie’ Melville (48) and his son, Menelick (21), were taken away to be locked up. According to their legal representative, attorney Carl Jeppe, they were released with a warning and the case will be heard in court on May 16. “Both the detainees were charged on counts of assault, intimidation, interference with a police official in the execution of his official duties and also Crimen Injuria,” said provincial police spokesperson, Captain Malcolm Pojie. He also denied that any rubber bullets were used during the raid (someone had claimed injury), but confirmed the use of stun grenades. A stun grenade was apparently also thrown into the home of the Rastafarian chief, despite the fact that the police had been asked not to scare the children who attend a crèche in the Melville home. Said Pojie: “This operation was aimed at dealing with drugs in Knysna. It was not aimed at any child or parents who visited this area.” Asked why the suspects had been detained overnight, he replied, “These suspects needed to appear in court due to the seriousness of the charges, before they could be released. This operation is in line with the provincial approach to deal effectively with the abuse of drugs in this province. The aim of this operation was to effectively deal with the illegal usage, abuse and the supply of drugs, in particular dagga (cannabis) in the Knysna policing precinct.” The legality of the search warrants will also be investigated as one of the warrants was apparently for a man who does not own a home. The police claims to have seized R37 000 worth of dagga. Members attached to the Southern Cape Crime Combating Unit, Tactical Response Team (TRT), Knysna Police Crime Prevention and the George Cluster Project team that focuses on illegal drugs, took part in this joint crime prevention operation. “Funny that the police come to us who they know is a soft target and unarmed, but they have to drive past several Tik homes where there are ‘skollies’ with ‘gunne’, to get to us, huh?” said one of the protestors outside Knysna’s court on Tuesday. The crowd said they were becoming increasingly frustrated by continued police action against them while a blind eye is turned to serious drug dealers. The same group of residents returned the next day, on Wednesday, to wait for the release of their chief and fellow Judah Square residents. ARTICLE: ANOESCHKA VON MECK, KNYSNA-PLETT HERALD JOURNALIST
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