Due to the continuous rise in tuition fees in South Africa, a protest called ‘Fees Must Fall’ was taking place at Wistwaterstrand University. It began as a peaceful protest, but quickly escalated to a violent stand-off between students and authorities.
Wits University spokeswoman, Shirona Patel, narrated the incidence to Times Live, a South African news agency.
The university made several protest conditions, prompting students to disrupt classes Monday morning. At least two students faced immediate suspensions and several classes were affected.
Several hundred students then gathered outside the Great Hall.
“The students started throwing sizeable rocks that could have maimed or killed people,” Patel explained. “The police dispersed the crowd using stun grenades, tear gas and water cannons. Some of the crowd remained outside the Great Hall, while others have since dispersed into Braamfontein.”
Then students began stoning a bus in Braamfontein and set it on fire.Emergency responders were able to douse the flames, but authorities worry how far the protests will go.
In the midst of the chaos, Fr. Graham Pugin, a priest at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in the Braamfonein neighborhood near the University, was attempting to block the police from entering the church, where some students sought refuge.
CNA reported the priest allegedly held his hands up but was still shot at close range with rubber bullets.
Students helped shield the priest and quickly got him to safety.
Many were “shocked and distressed” to witness Father Pugin being shot in the face, which caused enough damage for a trail of blood to soak the front of his robes.
The South African Bishops’ conference released a statement after Fr. Pugin was shot, in which they extended their “sincere sympathy and prayers for a speedy recovery.”
Fr. Pugin was recognized for “offering refuge to frightened students” and the bishops explained they supported the students’ right to demand an affordable education, though the violence is not to be condoned