Judah Square reacts after raid
The raid on the Rastafarian community of Judah Square in Knysna two weeks ago has caused outrage on social media, with pro-cannabis supporters countrywide vocal on what they deem the unfair treatment of a peaceful community.
On Tuesday 13 March a large contingent of police resources – more than 20 vehicles and more than 60 officers, according to residents – raided the Rastafarian sanctuary in Knysna, leading to one arrest and almost 2 000 confiscated cannabis plants.
On Human Rights’ Day last week, Wednesday 21 March, a group of Judah Square community members and supporters of the cannabis culture, including the Dagga Party of South Africa’s Jeremy Acton, held a peaceful gathering in Queen Street.
Their aim was to gather signatures on a memorandum requesting police to change their stance on and actions against cannabis users and the persecution of the dagga culture. A small group of those gathered handed over the signed memorandum.
According to Acton, similar memorandums will be sent to police stations across the country.
While the pro-cannabis supporters were gathering, three police vans pulled up as there was a chance that the gathering, for which no permit had been sought, could be deemed illegal. But the issue was soon cleared up between Acton and police officials.
To the police officials present, Acton said, “We are here to deliver a memorandum to the Knysna police regarding human rights and our rights as members of the dagga culture of South Africa. It is also about the Western Cape High Court judgement. We are here in peace and to provide the police with information and truth about what cannabis really is,” he said.
Law ‘criminal since inception’
Acton said the law governing the use of cannabis has been criminal since its inception, and it is now old and outdated. “All who enforce this law are acting on behalf of criminals,” he continued.
He was referring to Western Cape
High Court judge Dennis Davis’ ruling on 31 March which found that it was an infringement of the constitutional right to privacy to ban the personal use of dagga by adults in their homes.
‘Raid a waste of money’
Local cannabis activist Anthony Colley said at the gathering that he felt the raid on Judah Square was a complete waste of taxpayers’ money.
“There was no search warrant offered up, so this is a complete violation … this is not the law but rather a kind of Wild West show on the part of the police. It really upsets me to see a community robbed like this. I can tell you this raid was a deliberate one – why all the riot gear and vehicles? It’s just not right,” he added.
Another activist Alexander Dowding has gone so far as sending a letter to Parliament, attaching the Knysna-Plett Herald’s article reporting on the raid, on 15 March, to it.
In his letter Dowding expresses his complete dismay and disgust at what he calls apartheid era-type interventions that are still being perpetrated against these types of communities, “which more often than not consist of people of colour and those who were formerly oppressed by the apartheid regime”.
Local role players weigh in
Not only did Judah Square community members and pro-cannabis supporters from across South Africa voice their opinion on the raid, but so did some local role players.
The office of Knysna mayor Eleanore BouwSpies has confirmed that the mayor has sent a letter to Knysna police station commander Colonel Atwell Metu, who has responded.
“As this letter was an intergovernmental letter, the content thereof shall remain between the colonel and the mayor,” said the mayor’s acting office manager Fran Kirsten.
Knysna Tourism chair Elmay Bouwer also commented: “Obviously, as law-abiding citizens we understand the purpose of the raid, but I feel that it was very unfortunate in the way it was done, not just because it upset an entire community, but also because of all the negative publicity it attracted for our town.
“The Rastafarian community is a peaceful community and offers an authentic Knysna experience for many of our visitors. We will continue to promote the tours to what is essentially the biggest Rastafarian community in South Africa because our tourists love going there,” she said.
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Just some of the Judah Square community members and pro-cannabis supporters in front of the Knysna police station after their memorandum was handed over on Human Rights Day on Wednesday 21 March.
Judah Square community leader Brother Maxi at a pro-cannabis gathering on Human Rights Day last week.