A SAPS-driven crime intervention in Hangberg today, Thursday August 30, turned violent as riot police clashed with demonstrators opposed to the action.
Police descended on the harbour community in the early hours of the morning in a bid to arrest suspected poachers and others suspected of illegal activity.
According to ward councillor Roberto Quintas, the majority of law-abiding Hangberg residents had repeatedly asked SAPS to carry out their duties in the area, and the police action was as a result of these requests.
However, as clashes intensified with demonstrators who threw stones and fired flares, the mood among a number of residents living off Karbonkel Road changed, saying they were being unfairly targeted.
One elderly woman told the Sentinel that riot police had fired rubber bullets unnecessarily. She pointed to a dent in the door where a rubber bullet had struck.
“There’s an old man in his 70s who lives here. He was trying to close the door but they just shot it anyway,” the woman said.
Residents began to call for the police to fall back from the area, saying their presence was making matters worse.
Most of the fighting occurred outside Sentinel Primary School, which was closed for the day.
“My children can’t go to school because of this. The police must just leave now. They are causing the problems,” the woman said.
For most of the morning, a group of police were also camped in Rodevos and Salamader Roads where they were conducting sweeps of the area.
Eventually this unit, which also comprised members of the SAPS special task team, descended Salamander Road in several vehicles, surrounding by teams of riot police. A number of police nyalas were also involved in the operation.
Tear gas was fired to disperse the demonstrators throwing rocks and bottles. Bystanders soon were hurrying to wash the gas out of their eyes.
Later in the morning, a group of riot police returned to the residential area off Karbonkel Road, seemingly in search of a man who had provoked them.
Police entered a home where they suspected the man was hiding. While the curtains of the home were drawn, bystanders could hear children screaming and crying inside the house. Eventually the police emerged with one suspect, who was put on the ground and handcuffed.
It was unclear on what grounds he was arrested.
Once the police left the house, a man who lived there took the Sentinel inside and pointed to areas that the police allegedly had disturbed.
Several teenage girls who also lived in the house were crying and hugging one another in the doorway of the home.
“There are children here, how can they do this?” the man asked.
Renewed clashes ensued as more nyalas descended Karbonkel Road, with police firing rubber bullets and teargas at demonstrators moving between the housing blocks.