JOHANNESBURG — Several thousand people marched through South Africa’s largest city on Thursday in a demonstration against recent attacks on immigrants that killed seven people.
Demonstrators walked through the center of Johannesburg, passing high-rise neighborhoods that are home to many immigrants, a large number of whom come from other African countries.
The crowd sang, whistled and beat drums. Children in school uniform mingled with activists. The marchers carried placards with slogans including “Africa Unite” and “Say No To Xenophobia.”
The violence against immigrants in South Africa this month occurred in Johannesburg and another major city, Durban. The attacks stemmed from a perception among some South Africans that immigrants are taking jobs and opportunities at their expense.
One speaker at the march, Bishop Paul Verryn, told the crowd that the wide income gap between the poor and the wealthy in South Africa would lead to more anger among citizens.
“We will begin to fight amongst ourselves because we are embedded in violence and hatred,” said Verryn, who housed many fearful immigrants at the Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg after a bout of anti-immigrant violence in 2008 that killed about 60 people.
Adria Kayitare, a Rwandan immigrant who has lived in South Africa for nine years, said she joined the march because she believed it would send a strong message to South Africans who took part in the violence and looting of immigrant-owned shops.
“At least people will see not everyone is xenophobic,” she said.
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