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South African Police Clash With Protesters

Fri., Feb. 7, 1997, midnight

Residents of mainly mixed-race neighborhoods around Johannesburg took to the streets on Thursday, blocking roads with debris and burning tires, throwing rocks, and, in some cases, looting stores to protest what they say is discrimination by South Africa’s new government.

Early in the day, the police used tear gas and rubber bullets to quell the protests, but later they turned to buckshot and live ammunition. There were unconfirmed reports that four people, including one young boy, had been killed; hospitals in the area reported treating more than 30 people for various injuries. Throughout the day, columns of putrid smoke rose across the horizon south of Johannesburg and the smell of tear gas drifted across the rows of small cinder-block homes which, under apartheid laws, had been reserved for people of mixed race, known as coloreds.

The violence erupted after a local community organization urged residents to stay away from work on Thursday to protest water and electricity rates, which they say are higher in colored areas than in Soweto, a nearby black area.

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