Purple took on a powerful meaning during an anti-apartheid protest in Cape Town in the dying years of the dreaded Eighties, writes LAUREN COHEN
PROTESTERS marching to Parliament on September 2, 1989 were stopped by police on the corner of Burg and Church streets in the city centre. An impromptu sit-in saw police retaliate with batons, tear gas and a new weapon — a water-cannon spraying purple dye to stain demonstrators and make them easier to identify and detain.
As protesters scattered, one of them, 25-year-old Philip Ivey, climbed onto the armoured vehicle and turned the cannon’s purple jet on the police. Purple dye stained most of the surrounding buildings, including the National Party headquarters and the whitewashed walls of the historic Old Townhouse, on Greenmarket Square.
And so the march became known as the "Purple Rain" event.
The next day, graffiti around the city proclaimed: "The Purple Shall Govern".
This was one of the last protest marches outlawed by the apartheid government. Eleven days later, 30 000 people marched through the city without incident.
Ivey, a conscientious objector and treasurer of the End Conscription Campaign at the time, told the Sunday Times: "On the day of the march, seeing the whole city occupied by bright yellow police vehicles really angered me."
His decision to climb onto the police vehicle and redirect the water-cannon was a "spur-of-the-moment decision", although he was concerned he might be shot.
Covered in purple dye, Ivey nevertheless escaped the city, but was arrested two months later.
The charges against him were later withdrawn.