The sound of gunshots fired into a crowd of South African AIDS activists last week continues to echo through the global HIV community, with an adequate explanation yet to surface as to why police used rubber bullets on 700 apparently peaceful demonstrators at Queenstown’s Frontier Hospital. Among letters questioning the police action from overseas were protests from UNAIDS—the United Nations’ HIV program—GMHC and Human Rights Watch in New York. The Eastern Cape minister of health, Dr. Bevan Goqwana, called Friday for an inquiry into the incident, according to local reports.

Hospital officials stood by their decision to call in the police, however. "The authorities had been pleading with protestors for three hours to vacate the hospital premises after they had submitted their memorandum,” said Sizwe Kupelo, a health department spokesman. “But they refused to oblige and had become a threat to the patients.” According to the Treatment Action Coalition  (TAC), which organized the July 12 protest, only Pumla Xesha required hospitalization, but a total of 40 protesters were kicked, gassed, beaten with batons and/or trampled in the fracas that followed.

TAC is planning a July 26 march on the Queenstown police station to demand the suspension of the cops involved. Then it’s back to Frontier Hospital to reiterate last week’s demand that the government meet its treatment commitments and take thousands of HIVers—142 at Frontier alone—off of waiting lists.