The Purple Rain Protest -Christina Gibbons

One example of civil disobedience is a protest that took place in Cape Town, South Africa in 1989. The protest has been tabbed the “Purple Rain Protest” because of its iconic imagery and influential impact. With just four days before the racially segregated Parliament of South Africa held its elections, the protest was an attempt to gain exposure and put pressure on the supporters of apartheid. Starting out as a peaceful march, it quickly escalated as police intervened with a water cannon. Yet, this water cannon contained purple dye in an effort to stain demonstrators, making them easily identifiable for arrest. Many people begin to disperse or simply fall to their knees; however, one protester climbed onto the vehicle and took hold of the water cannon turning it back on police and spraying many of the buildings in the vicinity as well. One of these many buildings happened to be the headquarters of the ruling National Party. A day after the incident, all over the city in graffiti, were the words, “The Purple Shall Govern;” a play on the words of South Africa’s Freedom Charter, “The People Shall Govern.” Nonetheless, it enacted change because it was one of the last protests outlawed by the apartheid government. (Wikipedia)

This protest also fits within King’s boundaries of civil disobedience as stated in “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” It is very clear that many injustices existed within apartheid as whites ruled and coloreds were continuously denied citizenship then removed from South Africa. Apartheid had already been around for 41 years at the time of this protest showing that negotiation was no longer an option. Much like the situation King was in, empty promises had been made so the people were forced to take action. They too underwent “the process of self purification” accepting the fact that police would most likely violently intervene and make arrests. They took direct action to enact pressure and eventually saw the results and change that they demanded a few years later.

6 thoughts on “The Purple Rain Protest -Christina Gibbons

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  2. Lee Odell

    My friends were there some as bystanders some participating with two arrested. It was a bystander who got a hold of the water cannon, he was dressed in business clothes.

    My white friends spent the night in jail wet and cold, they received a two minute hearing in front of a judge, with the young white protesters released. The people of color stayed in jail.

    Yes it was one of the last protests. The berlin wall fell a few months later and it felt that without the cold war the apartheid government would not last long.


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