Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

Monday, June 02, 2003

A week of protests in Zimbabwe have opened up with regime violence.

Government troops fired live ammunition and tear gas and beat demonstrators with clubs and rifle butts Monday as the opposition launched a week of strikes and protests aimed at forcing President Robert Mugabe to step down.

Police raids rounded up dozens of leaders and supporters of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, which is seeking to make its most significant challenge yet to Mugabe's autocratic rule.

The government, through the state media, has vowed to use the army, police and its governing party militias to crush protests. Armored vehicles with rotating machine gun turrets patrolled the streets as demonstrations began in the capital, Harare, and the country's second-largest city, Bulawayo, both considered opposition strongholds.

In downtown Harare, soldiers forced about 20 protesters to lie on the sidewalk where they beat them with rubber batons, witnesses said. Some cried out in pain, shouting, "What have we done?"

On the campus of Zimbabwe University, witnesses also saw a group of about eight students beaten by soldiers. Riot police fired tear gas, driving back hundreds of students trying to march downtown.

More beatings were reported in the Harare township of Mabvuku where shoppers at a sidewalk fruit and vegetable stand were mistaken for protesters by soldiers and hit with rifle butts.

Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena said in a statement that at least 154 people, most of them opposition activists or officials, were arrested across the country Monday.

A march in Bulawayo was broken up by riot police who beat three opposition supporters, injuring them before dragging them into a police truck, said democratic rights activist Jenni Williams.

"We are trying to find out where they are so we can get urgent medical attention to them," she said.

Bvudzijena, the police spokesman, said forces were forced to fire into the air in the Highfield township in western Harare after opposition protesters tried to use a group of school children as human shields, an allegation the opposition denied.

Opposition officials said three people suffered gunshot wounds in that incident.

< email | 6/02/2003 04:12:00 PM | link

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