Is This South Africa’s Tiananmen Square Moment?

Bryce Swerhun had spent most of his time in Johannesburg safely away from the sounds of explosions near the University Of The Witwatersrand (Wits).

But something drew him to the campus on October 10 as scores of angry students gathered in a large protest for the elimination of college fees across the country.

What Swerhun, a Canadian who is in South Africa doing field work for his PhD program at City University of Hong Kong, saw there was nothing short of government sanctioned violence against young people on a scale rarely seen in liberal democracies.

Student organizers of the so called #FeesMustFall movement warned private security gathered on the steps of the Great Hall at the center of Wits’ campus that some among their number may start hurling stones at them unless they opened the doors to the building.

By the time Swerhun entered through the visitor gate and walked upon the scene, some protestors were indeed throwing stones at the security guards.

Then the police got involved.

“I saw the water cannon truck shoot up and spray the students below,” Swerhun said in an interview with RISE NEWS.

Swerhun said that “several hundred” student protestors were in the area around the Great Hall at the height of the clashes and that police were being very heavy-handed in the way in which they were breaking up the group.

Tear gas canisters leaving trails of smoke as they hit the ground. Rubber bullets thumping through the air. People yelling. People running.

Through the chaos in front of the Great Hall, Swerhun said that he saw one scene that reminded him of the troubling racist past of South Africa.

A white police officer had a group of black protestors cornered while allowing other students to freely pass. When a group of white students walked behind the officer without being stopped, the cornered black students started to argue how unfair it was.

At a certain point, Swerhun decided that he had seen enough and that he wanted to get back to the safety of his hotel room.

He walked behind the Great Hall, where he spotted a church where some students seemed to be gathered.

He thought that he could escape from the campus by going through the church.

“The priest then slumped over and then the blood was pouring out. They shot him because he defied them.”

What follows sounds like it is straight out of movie.

“There was a significant moment that reminded me of Tiananmen Square,” Swerhun said.

When he reached the church, most of the students in the area where gathered in a parking lot. There he saw a priest in white robes standing in the entrance.

“He [the priest] seemed to be making a statement, that he was there and it was a place of refuge,” Swerhun said.

But then a massive armored police vehicle started racing towards the church.

“It was moving at quite a speed and everyone is running away,” Swerhun said. “When I get behind a parked car, I see the priest put his arm and the vehicle backed up and left.”

Joy swept through the crowd but it was a short-lived feeling.

“Another armored vehicle came and started shooting rubber bullets at random, Swerhun said. “The priest then slumped over and then the blood was pouring out. They shot him because he defied them.”

Swerhun said that the shooting of the priest had a profound impact on the people who witnessed it.

“Some people got really angry and I saw someone say ‘call up the people with the petrol bombs.'”

“This was nothing but a brutal show of state force,” Swerhun said. “Those police in the vehicle were not in any danger.”

The priest was then brought into the church were he was tended to by private paramedics.

Despite being shot in the face with at least one rubber bullet, he was able to walk out of the church to a waiting car.

While the violence has largely been ignored by the world’s media, it shouldn’t be.

The issue is unlikely to go away even though things are starting to calm down on the streets.

Sure Kamhunga, a political commentator who has a large Twitter following said in an interview with RISE NEWS that the government should do more to end the clashes.

“Meet the student body. Listen to their demands. Offer a solution that paves way for mutual understanding,” Kamhunga said in way of advice to President Jacob Zuma’s government. “Students have already proposed a funding model and that is a good start to reach a common understanding and solution.”

Calling Young South African Writers, Journalists And Leaders: Tell Your Story And Make A Difference

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

I Can’t Stand Donald Trump. But The Violence Against His Supporters Is Wrong

The culture of protest in America is out of control.

As someone that does not support Donald Trump, it angers me to see the violence at these Trump rallies.

It peaked yesterday in San Jose, California.

It makes the opposition to Trump look undignified, and also gives the Trump movement more momentum and ammunition on which to further divide the country.

When you see protesters burning the U.S. flag and waving the Mexican flag with pride (and yet residing in the U.S. and potentially benefitting from this country), hitting people (sometimes causing them to bleed), and throwing eggs and rocks at supporters and police, you just feel portions of the electorate turning to Trump’s views. 

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The media loves drama, and they love fighting. When the protestors are out, so are the cameras, and the protestors are putting themselves on the world’s stage for everyone to judge.

Many will choose to judge a whole legitimate anti-racist movement on the behavior of a few bad eggs, but the protestors don’t take the time to consider that.

WATCH: Trump supporter egged 

Although Trump supporters can be very violent and abrasive as well, I honestly don’t think it can be compared.

Trump supporters don’t cause riots at Hillary and Bernie rallies.

What happened in Chicago a few months ago is more ambiguous, but the group opposing Trump in the middle of the rally arguably was the catalyst for what happened.

The only people interrupting and protesting Clinton and Sanders rallies seem to be folks from the left. Ironic.

As someone who leans to the left politically, I’m sick and tired of this hyper-liberal knee-jerk tendency to protest.

There are times when protesting is welcome, and necessary. Protesting with integrity and resolve is powerful, and can have impact.

However, that does not mean you find or create things to protest about, nor does it mean you protest every little issue. We’ve seen that on college campuses with disastrous results.

But in the case of the 2016 election, we should be protesting with our vote.

Trump is the GOP nominee, and throwing rocks won’t change it.

If you want to stop Trump, form a pro-active and peaceful coalition, try to increase voter turnout, and get people to the polls. This is democracy at its purest.

The more Trump supporters are harassed, the more Mexican flags waved as American flags burn, and the more violence caused is points scored for Trump.

If Trump wins the election, these violent protestors will get what they deserve but not what they want. 

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Pro Gun Groups Plan To Hold Fake “Mass Shooting” Near University Of Texas Campus

By Tony R. Myhre

A college campus. The sound of gunfire. Screams. Bodies strewn about, covered in blood.

What has all too frequently come flashing across our Twitter streams and TV screens in this case is not another actual campus shooting, but a planned demonstration at the University of Texas, Austin.

This Saturday at noon local time, two gun rights groups, Come and Take It Texas and plan to conduct a “crisis performance” after marching through Austin openly carrying loaded rifles and other weapons according to Matthew Short, a spokesman for the organizations.

Once near the university, “crisis actors” will use props made of cardboard and fake blood while the sound of gunfire rings out from bullhorns to perform a mock mass shooting incident, complete with pretend armed heroes who will apparently end the fake carnage with cardboard weapons of their own.

The groups intend to highlight their positions regarding “gun free zones”, like the UT Austin campus.

“Gun free zones are killing us,”A statement on the event’s Facebook page reads. “These target rich environments are letting our children be murdered by evil people. Now is the time to stand up, take a walk, and put pressure on politicians to ban Gun Free Zones.”

UT Austin is the site of two campus shootings, the Tower shooting in 1966, in which 14 people were killed and 32 wounded by student Charles Whitman. Whitman was killed by police, ending his siege.

In 1990, student Colton Tooley fired shots on campus from an AK-47, before ending his own life in the main library.

Initially, organizers endeavored to hold the event on campus, however this was met by threats of criminal charges by the Board of Regents. Organizers now intend to hold the event on a public right of way, using the university as a backdrop.

June 1, 2015 marked the passage of S.B. 11, the so called ‘campus carry law’, which Governor Greg Abbott signed in to law.

The law gives concealed carry permit holders legal authority to carry their weapons on campus beginning August 1, 2016.

In response to this, UT Texas has set up an advisory board, will hold two public forums and has also set up a survey to explore how the University intends to comply with the statute, while maintaining public safety.

Given the recent terror attack in San Bernardino and the shooting at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado, some feel that this event is in bad taste, and could be potentially dangerous.

Ralph Fisk, the CEO of Fisk Consultants in Hutto, TX, and a published Emergency Management professional with expertise in Active Shooters, Counter-Terrorism and Physical Security, has heard a great deal about this event from his local law enforcement and other campus contacts.

“I understand the right to exercise your first and second amendment rights, as in this case, however that planned demonstration in my opinion is over the top,” Fisk said. “Having a mock ‘active shooter’ incident is better saved for those that exercise these incidents in preparation for an actual attack. As an Open Carry Supporter, I feel this is not something that I personally could support.”

Joan Neuberger, a UT Austin Professor and advocate with the campus organization Gun Free UT, told the Statesman that staging, “a mass shooting during an anxious time for students – finals week – not only breaks rules but shows real disrespect for the feelings of students, faculty and staff who don’t want to have guns around them in the first place, but will be forced to put up with guns in public places in 2016.”

Cover Photo Credit: Derek Key/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Rahm Emanuel Apologizes For Laquan McDonald Shooting

CHICAGO — Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday apologized to aldermen for the police shooting of Laquan McDonald “that happened on my watch.” “If we’re going to fix it, I want you to understand it’s my responsibility with you,” Emanuel said in a rare speech to the full City Council. “But if we’re also going to… Read More

When It Comes To Mass Shootings, Your “Thoughts And Prayers” Are Meaningless

The following is the opinion of the writer of this piece and not necessarily of Rise News.

It happened again Wednesday. Another community was shaken to the core by violence and the ubiquitous sound of gunfire.

This time, it was San Bernardino, CA. As the full facts of the incident are still being sorted out, this will not be a rant about terrorism.

Instead, this is about the reactions. According to the Boston Globe, there have been 355 mass shootings in 2015. Note that, as of yesterday, there have been 336 days in 2015.

Here’s a pause to let that sink in.

The United States of America, the “free” country that champions “liberty” is the site of more than one mass shooting a day.

And if you think that number will taper off as the year draws to a close, you are delusional. There will be more.

But again, this isn’t about what could be done to stop this, or what should be done. This is about the people who actually have the power to make changes, and yet do nothing.

Every time a tragedy like this occurs, people jump on social media to send condolences to the victims. This ranges from Mr. and Mrs. Doe to the President.

And with many of these posts, a common phrase is typed. A phrase which has become the default for grief; “My thoughts and prayers”.

This phrase, and variations thereof, is absolutely meaningless. It is just as meaningless no matter who says it, but it is particularly nauseous to read when it is spouted by the very people who should be doing something.

Allow me to break down why it’s meaningless in a rational sense before the political discourse starts.

Thoughts do not get anything done. Words do not get anything done. Actions get things done. And until there are actions taken, nothing will change.

It is up to normal human beings to create change.

The New York Daily News hit this on the nose with cover that ran on Thursday.

You will notice that all (save for House Speaker Paul Ryan) of the Twitter posts the headline highlights are from present contenders for the GOP presidential nomination. You might also notice that they are all Congressmen.

These very men, along with many others of course, have the power to enact new laws. They could put into place stricter gun regulations, or alter conceal-carry laws, or something. But they don’t. And they won’t.

The simple reason: gun violence gets them paid. We all know about the NRA, the National Rifle Association.

While not all gun-owners are registered members, the NRA makes up the largest gun lobby in Washington. As a lobby, they dole out money in the form of campaign contributions to various elected officials.

Of course, this is with the understanding that said officials will work for the benefit of the NRA by either passing or blocking certain bills in either state or national Congress.

So do you want to know how much the NRA is putting in politician’s pockets? Well the numbers are sometimes sketchy, but you can look here and here to start.

Igor Volsky the Director of Video at Think Progress sent out a series of Tweets yesterday, along with an article detailing how much money certain members of Congress received from the NRA.

The common ground between all these politicians listed? They all sent out Tweets yesterday with some version of “thoughts and prayers”.

To sum this all up, look at a Tweet posted yesterday by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT):

This is poignant because of where Murphy is from.

In 2012, he was the Representative for Connecticut’s Fifth District, which included Newtown, the site of the Sandy Hook massacre. He has seen his constituents killed, and he is tired of seeing the same ever-repeating platitudes said with no substance to back them up.

It is time for America and Americans to open their eyes. These are not one-off incidents of lunatics. This is terror enabled by the very people who should be doing their best to keep Americans safe.

It is time to stop gun violence. And it is time to call out those who put the almighty dollar above safety and security.

This will happen again. And when it does, there will be no time for your “thoughts and prayers.”

Cover Photo Credit: Ben Townsend/Flickr (CC 2.0)

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