Thursday, January 22, 2015

Police Fire Tear Gas On Kenyan Kids Protecting A Soccer Field

Hundreds of elementary schools were protesting the illegal seizure of their playground by a private developer in Nairobi, Kenya, when police fired tear gas into the crowd.

The incident sparked outrage across the city — and on social media, where Kenyans tweeted with the hashtag #OccupyPlayGround.

But the shocking images and videos of the ordeal provoked a surprisingly proactive response. In the end, these Kenyan kids did what ordinary Kenyans are rarely able to do: Defend disappearing public space.


The process is known as "land-grabbing." A fence suddenly appears overnight around a parcel of government property. Those who protest are warded off — sometimes violently — by police. In time, a new high-rise or hotel or parking lot appears, owned by a politically connected magnate.

But this time, the land in question was next to an elementary school, Langata Road Primary School. And the protesters were kids as young as 8, who used the land to play soccer.


When developers set up a fence separating the school from the playground over the winter break, several hundred kids showed up on Monday to protest. They ended up breaking down the new fence. In response, heavily armed police fired tear gas on the kids.

"The tear gas was so bad!" Kevin Sande, 10, said Tuesday.

The gas made their eyes red and caused them to cough, other kids said.

In full disclosure, I can't be sure that Sande and his classmates I interviewed at Langata Road Primary School were the ones that got tear-gassed. In the disturbing photos from that day, it's hard to make out the faces on the green uniforms engulfed in white smoke.

"I didn't understand whether we are in Kenya or the Gaza Strip," says Rahab Mwikali, an activist, who came to the school to express sympathy. "I thought what could this be?" npr

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