South African police fired stun grenades and rubber bullets to break up a sit-in by protesters at a police station over the weekend and arrested more than 70 miners from a nearby Gold Fields mine, police have said.
As many as 600 miners from Gold Fields Kloof mines staged a sit-in at Westonaria police station, about 45km west of Johannesburg on Friday night, police said in a statement released on Sunday.
After failing to disperse the protest, police said they fired rubber bullets and stun grenades. The crowd responded by breaking windows and causing other damage at the station.
Police said they arrested 72 miners, one of whom was carrying a firearm.
"A total of 72 miners, one in the possession of a firearm with seven rounds of ammunition, were arrested," Brigadier Neville Malila said in a statement.
"Public order police were called in to defuse the situation and break up the illegal gathering. Negotiations with the group failed and rubber bullets and stunned grenades were used to defuse the situation."
The miners were arrested on charges of public violence and malicious damage to property, he added.
The protesters had arrived on buses earlier in the day to demand the release of 13 miners who were jailed on Friday afternoon. According to sources, another five miners were arrested on Saturday morning.
"There were 90 miners arrested in total over the course of about 24 hours. Most were charged with assault, attempted murder and suspicion as well," said Page.
In a separate incident, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters hurling petrol bombs after a march on an Anglo American Platinum mine in Rustenburg turned violent late on Friday.
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|Denis G. Rancourt|