On Saturday October 3, Africa Christian Action (ACA), along with about 1 800 pro-life groups around the world, held a life chain event in Cape Town to pray and protest peacefully against the abortion holocaust which claims the lives of about 40 to 50 million babies a year. They have been doing this on International Life Chain Sunday each year for three decades but Saturday was different. Dr Peter Hammond director of ACA reports
For the first time in 30 years of Africa Christian Action conducting Life Chains in Cape Town, we had serious police harassment yesterday, Sunday October 3, International Life Chain Sunday.
Some scenes from Saturday: https://youtu.be/YjR_CcjfQwE
Firstly, in our communications with the City of Cape Town in planning for the event, we were informed that no more than 100 people would be allowed at this Life Chain!
Considering that one can never know exactly how many people turn up for a public, annual, international event such as the Life Chain and the traffic island in Buitengracht Street is more than 6 700 square metres, this arbitrary restriction seemed unnecessary.
We pointed out that according to the current Covid restrictions under Level 2, we were allowed to gather up to 500 people (of course, by the time the Life Chain was held, outdoor gatherings could be up to 2000 people. We pointed out that according to the Regulation of Gatherings Act, we could easily, even with 2 metres apart, accommodate many hundreds of people at the Buitengracht Street Island outside the entrance to the Waterfront and opposite from the Cape Town International Conference Centre.
Nevertheless, we then received correspondence from Traffic Officer J Brand, informing us that no more than 200 people would be allowed at our life chain.
When we gathered on Sunday October 3 at 2pm, there was a surprising number of SAPS, Metro Police and Traffic Police vehicles at the venue and Traffic Officer Brand himself was there to tell us that we were not allowed to display our pro-life banners from the pedestrian bridge, nor could we distribute literature at the traffic lights.
To this, I pointed out that we have been conducting life chains in Cape Town since 1991, every year. The life chain is an international event, always held on the first Sunday of October and we had never before had any problems with either our banners being displayed, or our literature being distributed.
Officer Brand informed us that our posters could be “a distraction” for motorists and “cause accidents.”
I replied that, in over 30 years of conducting pro-life events, no accidents had ever happened at any of our life chain events. In fact, as there are many billboards, advertising posters on lamp posts and all manner of potentially distracting advertisements on the sides of buildings; it seemed unreasonable to single out pro-life posters at a life chain, which would only be there for two hours.
Officer Brand informed me that he was not interested in debating the matter but was telling me in the presence of the Metro Police Officer M Gqokomo, that we had to remove our banners from the pedestrian bridge and immediately stop all literature distribution at the traffic lights.
I asked why could we not distribute our pro-life literature at the traffic lights. Officer Brand replied that he was concerned for the safety of our people and that he would hold the convenor responsible for any accidents that occurred.
I informed Officer Brand that we have always insisted, and I had just reiterated in the instructions to the assembled pro-lifers, that people were to be alert to any potential dangers from traffic, for those holding placards and banners, to be behind the railings on the island and for those distributing the literature, to only do so when all traffic was stationary and to immediately get out of the road when traffic began to move again.
Nevertheless, Officer Brand said that he could not allow any literature distribution at traffic lights as it was illegal.
This seemed extraordinary to me and I commented that we have, for over 30 years, been distributing literature at traffic lights without any problem. Hawkers and marketing teams frequently distribute literature at traffic lights throughout South Africa. Why was our pro-life protest today being singled out for this?
Officer Brand said he was not interested in a debate on these issues. He was issuing an instruction and expected it to be obeyed, or he would hold the convenor liable for any violation.
On a number of occasions, Officer Brand refused to talk to myself, or our mission manager and insisted on dealing with the ACA Co-ordinator, Dalinda, who was told that she would be held criminally liable for any violation of his instructions.
I pointed out that we have a 30-year track record of being law-abiding people. We have never thrown a stone, nor broken any windows and we have never even left any litter behind at our protests or marches. In fact, at this life chain, we had some people specifically tasked with plastic gloves and black plastic bags, picking up litter in order to leave the place better than we found it.
Our life chain consisted of mothers, fathers, families, ministers, missionaries and law-abiding people. We are the friends of law enforcement and through our preaching and teaching seek to be positive and constructive in blessing and building up the community.
Officer Brand refused to talk to us, walked away and we did not see him again. However, the SAPS, Metro Police and Traffic Police contingent remained, with several Metro Police vehicles obscuring part of our life chain by being parked along the side of Buitengracht Street. The SAPS large vehicle remained on the island till our time was up at 4pm.
Literature distribution is always a key part of any of our life chains. We had specifically reprinted a number of pro-life leaflets for this very occasion, including: Considering Abortion? It’s My Body; Abortion – the Facts, and translations in Afrikaans and Xhosa of these titles.
Most of these were not able to be distributed because of the traffic officer’s harassment and interference.
The Bill of Rights in our Constitution protects our rights to demonstrate and distribute literature:
“Section 17: everyone has the right, peacefully and unarmed, to assemble, to demonstrate, to picket and to present petitions.
In addition, under Section 16: “everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes:
A – freedom of the press and other media;
B – freedom to receive or impart information or ideas;
C – Freedom of artistic creativity …”
It would appear to myself and other members of our ministry and pro-life affiliates that these rights were infringed and interfered with on Sunday October 3 at the life chain.
Despite the harassment and interference, our team of distributors managed to distribute over 2 700 leaflets and Gospel leaflets before the traffic officer began to order our people to stop.
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