News24 Wire
Wire Service
3 minute read
5 May 2020
3:50 pm

Cape Town surfers want to go #BackIntoTheWater during lockdown

News24 Wire

A small number of people took up position on the walkway alongside Muizenberg's famous beach at Surfer's Corner.

South African surfer Eli Beukes rides a wave at Cape Point in Cape Town, South Africa 18 March 2020. Surfers continue to train with all local and international competition being cancelled due to the Coronavirus Covid-19 disease. Picture: EPA-EFE/NIC BOTHMA

Police arrested several Cape Town protesters for “standing still” during the “exercise window” of the Level 4 lockdown as they demonstrated to have beaches opened for surfing.

But one man who protested for his right to surf appeared to get away on a bicycle in a daring escape which News24 captured on video.

A small number of people took up position on the walkway alongside Muizenberg’s famous beach at Surfer’s Corner.

They held a variety of signs – on surfboards, bodyboards and small placards. It appeared to be part of a “national peaceful protest” to argue the right to get #BackIntoTheWater – to surf, longboard, bodyboard, stand-up-paddleboard, surf ski, dive, and swim during the “exercise window”.

Initially, local South African Police Service (SAPS) personnel who watched closely did not appear perturbed.

But at about 8.20am this changed. Police began to tell individual protesters to “keep moving”, to quote at least two uniformed members.

This was in line with the regulation which permits South Africans to go out in public to exercise between 6am and 9am.

In response, some protesters began to walk slowly down the promenade – with their protest signs – and police allowed them to continue.

But it appeared that several protesters did not hear or understand, or chose not to obey the “keep moving” command.

Police then arrested several people for “standing still”, to quote the police.

These protesters were told that they broke the law by “standing still” and were led away to awaiting police vans.

One man said he had been exercising, by walking with his paddles in his hands, and was only taking a short break. But police did not accept this explanation and drove him off to a nearby police station to be formally charged.

One nearby surf protester continued to speak loudly, saying surfers deserved the right to exercise in the sea, practising strict and proper physical distancing.

He held up a long list of rights on a string of placards. He stood crested on his bicycle, which he had ridden to the area. A police colonel demanded his staff to arrest the man.

But in the confusion, the man cycled off.

The police colonel ordered his men to give chase – and at this point, the surfer began cycling furiously to get away. His long string of protest placards flapped wildly behind him. Police leapt onto a police motorbike and behind the wheel of a police van, and set off in pursuit.

The cyclist disappeared into the back streets behind Surfer’s Corner’s coffee and surf apparel shops, with police not far behind.

After about 200 metres, a police motorcyclist came upon the man’s protest placards in the street and the man’s cellphone, which appeared to have fallen.

Police soon reached a main intersection – and found no sign of the man. They briefly reprimanded each other for “letting him get away” – before splitting off to search for him in different directions.

It is not clear how many arrests were made in Muizenberg.

At least one other protester was arrested for “protesting”, in the words of the police colonel.

By 9am – as the exercise window closed – the scene was quiet as the area became deserted.

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