Thousands of South Africans attended a rally Thursday in protest of a recent wave of attacks against foreign immigrants living in the country, according to a report. The march occurred after at least five people were killed and hundreds more displaced by the violence.
Approximately 5,000 protesters, including religious leaders and local citizens, demonstrated peacefully in the city of Durban, Al Jazeera reports. Some pockets of attendees traveled from nearby cities in a show of solidarity against those who have attacked foreigners. An Al Jazeera producer at the scene could not confirm reports that police had used rubber bullets on anti-immigrant protesters that confronted the procession.
Police in Johannesburg used rubber bullets and tear gas to scatter a group of about 200 anti-immigrant dissenters who gathered to protest the presence of foreigners in South Africa, a witness told Reuters. The dissenters reportedly threw rocks at passing cars and also targeted police.
Violence against foreign nationals has mostly occurred in Durban. At least five people, including a teenage boy and two foreigners, were killed this week as assailants looted and burned shops, the Guardian reported. Dozens of people were arrested for various crimes related to the violence, authorities said.
South Africans who have targeted foreign-born individuals reportedly blamed them for taking job opportunities away from local residents. Unemployment in the country currently holds at about 25 percent, though some say the number is higher, Reuters noted.
The South African government has set up camps for foreign nationals displaced by the violence and assigned several officials to come up with a solution for the wave of attacks. The neighboring nation of Malawi has aided hundreds of citizens who immigrated to South Africa but now face violence.
A similar wave of anti-immigrant attacks killed dozens of people in Johannesburg in 2008. President Jacob Zuma condemned the renewed instability this week.
“I think this now must stop, because we cannot continue killing one another. What is happening in your country is not acceptable,” he told SABC, a state news service.