Five protestors were arrested in Grahamstown early this morning following ongoing protests related to the #RUReferenceList despite pleas from the vice chancellor for their release. The arrests happened after local police used stun grenades, rubber bullets and pepper spray to disperse a number of “illegal” gatherings at various entrances to the university. A statement released by Grahamstown SAPS (South African Police Services) says that the five “suspects” “face charges relating to the Gatherings Act and will appear in the Grahamstown Magistrates court shortly”.

In a video showing the arrested protestors in the back of a police van, Rhodes vice chancellor Dr Sizwe Mabizela is seen pleading with police and is heard saying: “Please release them, it’s going to cause problems”, while police use rubber bullets to ward off students close to the van. One of the protestors had a panic attack in the back of the van and seen being calmed by someone standing outside.

Speaking to the camera, Mabizela said, “I begged them, I begged them to release the students, there is no reason why they should take the students”. According to Mabizela, the police argued that they could arrest the protestors despite his requests as they were gathered on a public road.

The arrests are not related to the “Naked Protests” which took place at the university yesterday. During that gathering, about 150 women went topless to show their support for the ongoing #RUReferenceList protests.

The women took off their tops to reinforce the message that that despite being naked, they (the women) were, “still not asking for it”.

The so-called #RUReferenceList protests were sparked on Sunday, April 17, after Chapter 2.12 campaign posters about rape culture were taken down on campus. In response to this a list of alleged rapists on campus was circulated via social media and angry students then attempted to confront the individuals whose names appeared on the #RUReferenceList. The university responded by calling in local police to ensure the safety of the individuals named.

Students took to social media to accuse Rhodes University of being ineffective in dealing with rape cases by shaming victims and protecting perpetrators.

*Featured image courtesy Activate Online.