JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Protests against police brutality were held in South Africa and Kenya on Monday, with demonstrators who came out to denounce George Floyd’s killing in the U.S. charging that they are also suffering abuses by their own authorities.
South Africa’s leftist opposition party, the Economic Freedom Fighters, held anti-racism protests in Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town over Floyd, a black man who died in Minneapolis after a white police officer knelt on his neck for several minutes even as Floyd pleaded that he couldn’t breathe.
The EFF party’s firebrand leader, Julius Malema, criticized the South African government, saying that it is not doing enough to stop brutality perpetrated by its own police and army.
In Johannesburg, about 100 protesters closed a major thoroughfare in front of the U.S. consulate. They knelt in the street for eight minutes and 46 seconds to mark the time that the police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck. The South African protesters held up Black Lives Matter placards.
Malema, leading the protest at the U.S. Embassy in the nation’s capital, Pretoria, was joined by the partner of Collins Khosa, a black South African man who died after allegedly being assaulted by black soldiers enforcing the country’s strict lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Khosa was allegedly beaten by soldiers after beer was found at his home, which was still legal during the lockdown although the sale of alcohol was prohibited. The incident happened two months ago in Johannesburg’s poor Alexandra township.
The opposition party has offered to pay legal fees to help Khosa’s family press a court case against the army and the South African government for his death, said Malema. He said the government has not properly responded to Khosa’s death, and has already absolved the soldiers of any blame.
“We are in the second phase of suing the state on behalf of the family. We are more than convinced that the judges will be on our side,” said Malema, according to the news website News24. “It was brutality and abuse of power and we don’t associate with that.”
In Kenya’s capital, residents of one of Nairobi’s poorest areas held a peaceful protest over the police brutality and killings which have plagued their neighborhood in recent years.
Juliet Wanjera, a member of the Mathare Social Justice Center, said the group organized the protest in solidarity with the global movement against police brutality sparked off by the death of Floyd.
About 200 people holding placards with messages such as “Youth Lives Matter” and “The Right of Life is Absolute” marched through Nairobi’s second biggest shantytown.
Human rights groups say Kenya’s poor suffer the brunt of unlawful police killings and abuses because they don’t have resources to seek redress. Residents of the Mathare and Dandora areas, the poorest in Nairobi and which are home to several hundred thousand people, say they have suffered most of these abuses in recent years.
“We feel we are being harassed like this and being treated this way because we are poor people,” said Wanjera. “So today the poor people of this country have come together to say no to police killings and police brutality and also stand in solidarity with the global protest against police excesses all over the world.”
Last week, Kenyan police were accused of killing a homeless man in Mathare for violating a curfew put in place by the government because of the coronavirus.
Kenya’s Independent Police Oversight Authority said that while enforcing the curfew police have killed 15 people and are accused of 31 cases of torture and injuring people. The oversight body said a police officer will be charged with the killing of a 13-year-old boy.
Odula reported from Nairobi, Kenya.