A riotous act* – that’s what Cape Town police employee Dejehar told me I would be brought to Central Booking for unless I complied with his demand to delete footage from my video camera.
Fortunately I was not caged, though Dejehar and his colleagues sought to intimidate Jacob Crawford and me because we had filmed them – public employees – in a public location, detained me for 20-minutes, and ultimately deleted footage from my camera.
Since arriving in Cape Town on Wednesday, August 28th – the third stop of the Police Accountability Tour – Jacob and I had already been out and about in some neighborhoods and thought we’d mix up our on the ground activities by visiting Long Street, a busy night spot that we thought might involve a police presence and well as good opportunities to do outreach.
About 30-minutes we saw a makeshift checkpoint being established near the southern end of the street. One passerby, who expressed his appreciation for our presence, said such checkpoints on Long Street were rare.
After documenting the police activities for about five minutes I decided to initiate a conversation with a nearby police employee – a plainclothes employee later identified as Dejehar who’d just moved a vehicle near to our location – to learn a bit more about the rationale for their actions. My question was ignored and Dejehar old me to go with him, grabbed at my camera (hitting the “Record” button on the exterior of the camera, which stopped the capturing of footage), and beckoned his colleagues.
A barrage of demands was levied at Jacob and I, and I was told to delete the footage. Jacob and I pointed out that we were in public and that they had no expectation of privacy. I was then yanked away and corralled toward the open door of police vehicle #116, which Dejehar drove, and told that I had two choices – delete the footage or be brought to Central Booking.
Dejehar and his colleagues attempted to push me into the vehicle. I encouraged those present to step back from the situation and realize that I had not harmed anyone and in fact, that I was well within my rights. and that it was they who were in the wrong.
Dejehar claimed that as he worked undercover, I had no right to film him, and referred me to “Section 36”
So some text on paper written by strangers can supposedly usurp ones rights? If a right can be so limited it’s not a right and the person is not free but a slave. I certainly don’t choose to adopt Dejehar’s justification.
If Dejehar didn’t want his status as an undercover known, why was he working in plain sight in conjunction with costumed Cape Town police employees? His claims and demands of me were conflated, done solely for intimidation.
I repeated refused to delete the footage on my camera, knowing full well that I was in the right. I too found solstice knowing that Jacob was nearby – across the street or on a dark corner, filming the interaction from afar.
My question, “Am I being detained?” was never answered.
After 20-minutes Dejehar’s demeanor changed. He became less overtly aggressive and instead, sought to instill upon me that since I hadn’t obeyed, he could have done X (kidnap and cage me, document the address where I was staying, take my camera) but chose not to as he didn’t want to mar my experience in South Africa. Is that true or did he finally conclude that his tactics wouldn’t find purchase?
It was only when I was told that I could leave that I inquired of Dejehar’s name. He’d noted twice that any attempt I made to file a complaint would not go far as he’d not acted in the wrong. I agree that it wouldn’t go far but reached that conclusion for a different reason – the fact that his colleagues would be folks doing the investigation. Dejehar stated his name fast and I asked him to spell it, which he did. I walked away and using an audio recorder, recorded his name for my records.
A minute later I received a call from Jacob, who I then learned, had left the scene shortly after we were separated to ensure his footage – which depicted Dejehar and his cronies – was safe. He had also begun to reach out to our lawyer contact and some very capable people on the ground.
Fortunately, thanks to some video recovery software Jacob had utilized before, the deleted clip was brought to light. Though it shows only the very start of the interaction had with Dejehar, it demonstrates the aggressive tone he took.
What does it say about the caliber of a person who claims to serve and protect but instead resorts to threats and censorship? What does it say about the institution for which Dejehar works when all of his colleagues on the scene didn’t only fail to deescelate the situation and make clear to Dejehar that he was in the wrong, but instead backed his actions and used and threatened the initiation of force?
Accompanied with cameras and others local, Jacob and I plan to follow-up on this incident with Dejehar’s colleagues this week. It will be interesting to see if, instead of acting in direct opposition as did Dejehar and his colleagues, they act aligned with their stated mission of bringing about “a safe and secure environment for all people of South Africa.”
Cape Town Police Department
The Police Accountability Tour
The footage below was recovered using Data Recovery 3
*a quick search for “riotous act South Africa” returned results that detail legislation that has since been repealed. The legalease originally existed under the auspices of deterring gatherings that were deemed to “endanger the public peace” (ie question the Statist Quo)