Cape Town Stories 25
Last night I went to an event. I’m not sure exactly what it was, somebodie’s farewell, but also a real event with wristbands and a bar and a great DJ set at a hip location somewhere between new and old Woodstock. A lovely little building with an outside seating area and plants dangling from the ceiling. Overall really nice, atmospheric, friendly. I had a whiskey, did some lazy dancing (sitting down, only use of upper body), talked to some people and then decided I could no longer keep up pretending to know the rappers that were talked about so I decided to go home and eat in bed, you know, really let my Saturday night go out with a bang. A friend was feeling the same way and so we grabbed our things and made our way to the exit. Oddly at precisely this moment, I noticed how a police officer had entered the DJ booth (a caravan turned DJ booth to be precise) and was now motioning the DJ to stop the music. Although I thought it strange that the music should be lowered so early on a Saturday evening, I continued my way to the door with my bed an oasis-like apparition before my eyes. But before I could exit, the police officer – a white woman in her 40s with the tiniest of nose piercings – had blocked my way: „You are not allowed to leave“ she said and motioned me to back away from the door. „What? Why?“ was the only response I could utter, stunned about her request to have us retreat back into the room. But I received no answer. Instead, she waited until she had everyone’s attention and then made a public announcement: „No one may leave the premises until they have been searched by us. We will search every person present here for the possession of marijuana“. Now aside from the fact that I thought that marijuana can be legally consumed when inside (am I grossly misinformed?) I also had no idea that police could come into a space and frisk individuals who had not displayed any form of „suspicious behaviour“. Perhaps I am greatly naive, but as the policewoman took from me my bag and went through ALL of my items, screwing off caps of bottles and pens, I noticed two things. One: I am messy, and I should be embarrassed by the content of my bag. Two: I am angry. Angry at the fact that Woodstock police can come into a space where there had been no violence, no altercations, just happy people celebrating friendship and saying goodbyes and turn everyone present into a potential criminal when at the same time Woodstock – although gentrified – routinely deals with „real violent crime“. As she opened my vitamins, my highlighters and my floss I told her that I could not believe that they had time and capacity to send out three vans to do such a big search for something so trivial. Her response was in my opinion equally ridiculous as it was rude: „You should be happy because your son or your daughter“- I have no idea what she was going to say but I stopped her right there. „Son? Daughter?“, what about my appearance would make her assume I could be a mother? But she did not humour me and so I returned to my social commentary. I told her that „this really breaks my heart. That there is time to search us when there has been no violence here, nothing significant has occurred but it is treated like a crime scene. I am from this neighbourhood and I know what goes on around here. Recently someone was stabbed with a bottle opposite the police station at the parking lot and the police saw him and left him there, lying in his own blood, but here we are being searched for weed?“. I give her credit because she was calm in her replies: „We have received complaints from neighbours, they have handed in a public petition against this place because of noise and weed-smoking“. It was of course not a satisfying response and as she went on to frisk the next person I spoke to her colleague and explained why it made me so sad that with the lack of ressources the Woodstock police experiences (they run out of staples and pin together documents with needles at the end of a month), this should be their focus. This policewoman as barely paying my rant any attention, she was more concerned with my friend than my social analysis:
„Is that your boyfriend waiting for you?“
„Uhm…no…I mean, he is a friend…?“
„So what is that love bite on your neck?“. Yes. She said that: „So what is that love bite on your neck?“, referring to what looks like a little hicky, but what is, in fact, an annoying rash. Which is what I told her. To which she said: „But he is your boyfriend for the night?“.
Read that again. And now picture her. In her blue uniform, complete with the „law enformcement badge“. „But is he your boyfriend for the night?“, she said whilst eyeing him.
„Why, do you think he’s cute?“. At this point, are we just two girls conversing?
Oh my god, I had no idea what was happening, but I finally realised that there was no point in further pursuing a conversation about social ills and the asburdity of criminalising trivial behaviour, and so I followed „the cute boy“ that is my friend out of the building. The last words I had the privilege of hearing coming from my new friend the police officer were „okay, next, girl, I want to touch your body“.
Ah, the professionalism implemented by the police to tackle crime truly deserves a standing ovation and an award – if not for the effectiveness then definitely for the entertainment value: Woodstock police force wins Best Performance in a Tragic Comedy.