Rubber bullets, stun grenades, tear gas and water cannons were used on protesters at a South African school accused of organizing a “white only” graduation party.
On Friday, hundreds of protesters from the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) gathered at Brackenfell High School in Cape Town, in a predominantly white neighborhood.
Some of the protesters, mostly black, were seen carrying machetes, clubs and golf clubs, but were greeted by a strong police and private security presence, some of whom were in riot gear.
The anger focused on a prom held earlier this month, to which only white students were reportedly invited. It was held after the initial party was canceled for students taking graduation exams due to coronavirus restrictions, and limited to 100.
The school said it was a private function organized by the parents and had nothing to do with them, but it is alleged that teachers were attending.
A public backlash began after a man shared a video of what he described on social media as a “white only” party.
EFF, South Africa’s second-largest opposition party, said its supporters were protesting peacefully when police used tear gas, stun grenades and water cannons.
Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Desmond Tutu, former Archbishop of Cape Town, issued a statement calling for “peaceful and rational discourse and action … not division”.
He accused both sides of undermining non-racism and called the issue “a symbol of the unresolved issues of South Africa’s past”.
About 80% of South Africa’s 60 million people are black, but many remain in poverty 26 years after the end of apartheid.
The EFF claims black people are held back by a deep-rooted racism that persists in South Africa and particularly in neighborhoods like Brackenfell.
Poppy Mailola, deputy general secretary of EFF, said the Brackenfell community “even taught their children to be racist”.