BEST OF 2014 | WHOONGA ATTACKby Samora Chapman / 22.12.2014
Originally published on 10 June 2014
We’re in the midst of a crisis. Last night I witnessed a mob nearly murder a man in the street. I then wandered across the city in the half darkness and found that the same mob had swept across town in a fit of rage… beating scores of people with knobkerries, bricks and hockey sticks. The source of the madness? Whoonga Park. And it’s burning to the ground. Here’s how…
I got home from work at 7pm. I needed fresh air, to get out into the night. So I grabbed my skateboard and an orange and my phone for music. I bombed a hill, then swung into Esther Roberts Road.
Something was up. A sex worker was running down the road, shouting to the others, spreading a message. “Gijima!” Run!
It’s not unusual, I thought. Probably cops handing out beatdowns. The sex worker slipped into an alley to disappear. I followed.
I caught up with her on Umbilo Road… and as we rounded the corner we stumbled right into the line of fire.
A mob of about 40 men were charging down the road towards us. They were wielding weapons. Bellowing voices. They were chasing a man. A dark shadow, a phantasm. The prostitute disappeared into thin air. I froze and watched. I witnessed. I stood possessed. I couldn’t move.
The mob caught up with the man directly across the road from me. They beat him as he ran and swayed and zig zagged. He took five blows and kept going like a wounded animal. Somehow. But eventually they overwhelmed him and he dropped in the middle of the road.
He took several more blows on the ground. Thuds and crunches. Then the cops came screaming down the road. And the mob just kept running, hitting a left down towards Sidney Road. Like wolves.
The beaten man was motionless, in a pool of blood. I went to stop traffic and wait for the cops but they never came. They just fucked off in another direction.
Then his head rose off the concrete. He came alive. I thought he was dead. I realised he was just a boy. Maybe 16.
He crawled to the side of the road and then, miraculously… he got up. He started stumbling back up the alley I had come down. He had no shoes and his clothes were torn. I followed him up the alley.
I phoned my old man and put out a Facebook message asking for the number of the Umbilo Police. I couldn’t believe the boy was walking, he needed a hospital or he would surely die. He was stumbling, looking over his shoulder for the mob.
The boy told me he was just sleeping on the road when he was attacked (which I thought unlikely). He asked me how bad his head wounds were. Bad, I said. I was sick to my stomach.
But it was just the beginning.
We arrived at the intersection by Jackie Horner’s and I saw a commotion. A man was crumpled in the corner with a head wound. Wrapped in a blanket. Security and local shop owners had called the police.
The boy I had followed collapsed next to the other victim. There were several homeless people gathered around. I asked them what happened.
“It’s the men from Dalton Hostel. They are killing everyone,” said a slightly lucid homeless guy covered in scars. “It’s worse down at Whoonga Park. Many people are hurt.”
My friend rocked up on his motorbike and I hopped on, slightly stressed that I had no helmet. But we had to get to Whoonga Park.
We jetted off, but didn’t get far… on Moore Road we came across the next scene, outside the army surplus shop. Cops and a crowd. A man lay motionless – he looked dead, but who am I to say. I took a snap and carried on, walking now, my friend tailing me on his bike.
Around the corner, Whoonga Park was on fire. I counted several blazes. People scattered everywhere, on the sidewalks and in the roads. There were three or four victims in the middle of Berea Road, broken and mashed. Cops and medics were on the scene. I asked a cop how many people had been hurt: “I have no idea,” he said.
So I went to the whoonga heads watching. They were moaning and delirious. High. Bewildered. Terrified. I asked them who did this, what happened?
“The men from Dalton Hostel. They attacked us. They burnt all our things.”
Why? What impetus sparked the rage of the vigilante mob; causing them to sweep through the streets at dusk, attacking homeless people at random? Who knows. I repeat. We’re in the midst of a crisis.