There is something quite unique about covering a protest march. I've done it a good few times, and the emotions are always the same. Most of the marches in Durban end at the City Hall, so one always arrives in that area about a half an hour before the march does. By this time, the streets are blocked off, and for the big marches, like this one, shops close. There is always that weird and eerie silence in the air; no traffic and very few people as office workers scurry inside just in case it turns ugly. It's like that dead calm just before a big storm, a city in near silence.
In the distance, down the street you can just see the marchers but you can't really hear more than a vague and deep droning noise. In front of them the blue lights flashing of numerous police vehicles. As they get closer you can hear the loudspeakers of the march leaders calling slogans and waiting for the people to reply, in one voice. Then the police vehicles dash up the street towards you, sirens on full blast and blue lights everywhere as they scan the approach for any kind of difficulty. It's here!
Then the first wave arrives, ordered together by the marshals in a box-like formation, chanting in a rhythmic way that you can only really experience in Africa. It's alluring and inviting, and for a moment you forget you have a camera in your hand and you almost want to allow yourself to get mesmerised by the sounds and join in. They come wave after wave, and gather in front of the City Hall in their thousands, to listen to their leaders, and chant. Mostly it's peaceful and good natured, sometimes it isn't...
This was part of a 5-day nationwide strike by city workers for better pay. It left a very dirty city, with bins overturned everywhere and litter uncollected. But it was peaceful and mostly good-natured. It felt good to be out in the streets with a camera, ironically feeling free and safe in the middle of a march of thousands.