WATCH: Fracas over old SA flag leads to arrests

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An old SA flag adorns the wall in Brian’s Pub, Seapoint. A lawyer and his friends were arrested yesterday for being drunk in public after complaining about the flag. PICTURES: TWITTER
A GROUP of Cape Town friends, among them an attorney, was arrested yesterday morning for public drunkenness after they had complained about an old South African flag displayed at a Sea Point bar.

It is not illegal to fly or display the flag as it has never been banned and is protected under chapter 2 of the constitution as an expression of free speech.

The attorney, Richard Julies said he and four friends had decided to pop in at Brian’s Pub for a drink before going home.

After a few minutes they noticed the memorabilia in the bar – some of which they found offensive, particularly the old SA flag.

“We were horrified. The patrons seemed oblivious to it.”

He said they had begun to feel uncomfortable and decided to question the barman about the flag.

He alleged the barman’s manner became offensive.

Julies said one of his friends then also became angry.

“As we were walking my friend out, the barman started beating him with a security baton on his head.”

Julies said his friend became angry and started screaming. The situation allegedly escalatedy and people began making racial slurs.

“My friend decided to call the police. We wanted to defuse the situation.”

Julies said no violence had happened.

However, he claimed that when the police arrived it was immediately obvious they were biased by the way “they assessed the situation”.

“We were still standing outside the pub when the police came to me and I explained the situation to them.”

He said their response left him in shock. The police wanted to know why he had gone into the pub if he didn’t like the flag.

After some discussion Julies said he and his friends had decided to leave.

They crossed Regent Road and walked over to the BP garage to buy something to drink.

“We just wanted to get the cooldrink, go home and forget the whole thing.”

However, things didn’t end here, according to Julies.

The policemen followed them across the street and put three of the five into the back of the police van. One of the three was a woman.

“When we got to the police station I was irate and horrified. I kept asking them why we were being arrested. We were all very vocal.”

Their questions allegedly went unanswered and three were placed in holding cells which he said were cold, dirty and had no roof.

“In all this time we were not being told why we were being arrested.”

A bit later, they were informed they were being held for being drunk in public.

Julies said they were initially told they would be kept for about two to three hours; however they were later allegedly told they could not be released because the system at the police station was down.

All three were released at 9am yesterday.

They refused to pay an admission of guilt fine of R200, but opted to oppose the charge in court in October.

“They had no proof that we were drunk. We left the scene. We called the police to help us.

“We are definitely going to report this to the Human Rights Commission as well as Independent Police Investigative Directorate. I was held against my will and they did not explain why I was being detained,” Julies said.

Keelan Joshua, who was also detained, said only while he was being held in the cell had it dawned on him that the barman had hit him.

The woman, who declined to be named for fear of victimisation, said: “In a constitutional democracy, in a cosmopolitan city, to go out with a mixed group of people and to walk into an establishment where there’s literally an apartheid flag prominently displayed, proudly displayed, is absolutely shocking.

“At the police station no one was forthcoming with information despite us being as co-operative as possible. We were locked up for hours without an explanation.

“Upon requesting to know why we had not yet been released I was told the system was down and that unfortunately I couldn’t leave because there was a system problem and they couldn’t generate a case number.”

SAPS spokeswoman Sergeant Noloyiso Rwexana confirmed three people had been arrested for being drunk in public.

At the bar on Saturday, an employee at the establishment refused to comment. The Weekend Argus was not allowed to take any pictures.

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