An Orange County man who was arrested for allegedly interfering with Cape Town police said Friday that his detention in a South African jail was unjust and might cause him to leave the country.
Ronald Minor, 31, of Anaheim was one of five U.S. citizens arrested last weekend during a nationwide state of emergency. Police, who held Minor in custody for several hours, dropped charges against him Thursday.
"It made me think," said Minor, in a transatlantic telephone interview. " I broke no law. And I just wonder what they would have done if I were black. I am white, and I know I am privileged here. "I came here to open my eyes and to know what this place was like. I'm finding out."
Minor said he had come to South Africa to play the trombone in the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra. He said he would decide within the next month whether to leave the country.
Tried to Help Woman
The incident began on June 14, when Minor tried to help a black woman whom he said was screaming for help, as two white men forced her into an automobile. Minor repeatedly asked the men to identify themselves, he said, and the two--who were dressed in civilian clothes--finally said they were police officers.
At that point, Minor and a South African woman companion, identified only as "Hazel," were arrested and detained for several hours, he said.
Minor added that his passport was held for five days, before it was returned to him and the charges were dropped. He also had to pay an attorney $500 to represent him.
"Like my lawyer said, it was a storm in a teapot. It was a very minor thing," Minor said. "In Orange County or L.A., a plainclothes cop like that would have identified himself when asked. But not here. I guess they feel protected."
Minor said he was a concert trombonist in Durban on the eastern coast of South Africa for 2 1/2 years, before returning to Orange County last January. He spent three months in Anaheim, but left two months ago for Cape Town, where he has been playing with the symphony in that city.
U.S. State Department spokesman Bruce Ammerman said earlier Friday that he was unaware that the charges had been dropped against Minor but observed: "That's good news. I'm glad to hear about that."
Ammerman said three of the four other Americans arrested last week have been released. One has left South Africa and one is planning to leave.
Benton L. Minor, a California State University, Fullerton, music professor, said his son telephoned Thursday to say he had been to court and that all charges against him and his woman companion had been dropped.
Two other Americans, Scott Daugherty, 19, of San Diego and Rodney Williams, a retired Army lieutenant colonel from Hawaii, were released late Wednesday night from South Africa's Pollsmoor Prison, Ammerman said. On Friday, Daugherty left Cape Town by air and Williams left Cape Town by car for Johannesburg, with plans to leave the country Wednesday, he said.
The Rev. Brian Burchfield, a Lutheran missionary from Seattle living in South Africa, was arrested Sunday but released a few hours later and remains in South Africa.
A fifth American, whose identity had been withheld by the U.S. State Department, was identified Friday as Charles R. Zechman, 50, a missionary, originally from Lewisburg, Pa.