Huge Rally at UCLA Attacks Ties to S. Africa
Several thousand UCLA students protested University of California investments in South Africa on Tuesday at a peaceful but spirited rally that administrators said was the largest political protest they had seen on campus since the Vietnam War.
After the noontime rally, students marched through school administration headquarters in Murphy Hall, and several hundred staged a sit-in in the hallways. More than 200 pledged to stay all night or, they chanted in unison, “as long as it takes” to convince the university Board of Regents to withdraw the $1.7 billion it has invested in companies that operate in South Africa, where apartheid is government policy.
Administrators decided to allow the 200 or so students to remain in Murphy Hall for the night and to keep police away so there would be no confrontation. The protesters settled in along the main corridor, some with blankets, but made no effort to block access. Doors remained unlocked.
Protest Called Peaceful
A similar sit-in staged at the University of California, Berkeley, last week resulted in the arrest of 159 students, but there were no arrests at the northern campus on Tuesday when several dozen faculty members marched in sympathy with student demonstrators and joined in their demands.
Student organizers at UCLA warned sit-in participants Tuesday that they could risk arrest if they refused to move. But both students and administrators said the protest was peaceful, and that they did not expect a repeat of last week’s Berkeley incident.
The noontime rally was called by the Undergraduate Students Assn. Council and the Black Student Alliance, which had urged students and faculty to boycott classes between noon and 2 p.m. Along with the estimated 3,000 to 4,000 students who attended the rally were a few dozen faculty members.
Administrators said they had no way of estimating how many classes had been cancelled.
Gwyn Lurie, undergraduate student body president, described the demonstration as part of a growing student movement “determined to speak out against the grave moral injustices in South Africa.”
“We don’t stand alone here today,” Lurie told the rally. “We stand together with our sisters and brothers at UC Berkeley and at all the UC campuses. We stand together with students from all over the country. . . . Today we even stand together with our sisters and brothers from USC.”
William Schaefer, executive vice chancellor of UCLA, who was acting chancellor because Chancellor Charles E. Young is in Europe for a conference, watched the demonstration from the sidelines. He said he had seen no such protest on campus since the mid-1970s.
“This demonstration is a model of its kind,” he remarked. “I think this kind of peaceful demonstration is a very appropriate manifestation of the university spirit.”
He said it would be “inappropriate” for him to say whether he personally agrees with the students’ move to pressure the Board of Regents to divest itself of stock in American companies operating in South Africa. But, he added: “You have to be very sympathetic with this cause. It is very deeply felt.”
Faculty members and some university staff members attending the rally said they believe that the apartheid issue has wide support even among faculty members who traditionally prefer not to become involved in demonstrations.
‘Feel Very Strongly’
“I, for one, feel very strongly about the issues that the students are bringing up about the university’s direct or indirect investments in the regime of apartheid in South Africa,” said Bobby Smith, a UCLA public affairs staff member. “I would think that most staff and faculty probably would not intentionally support apartheid. But they may do so indirectly, as we all do, by failing to act for change.”
Students attending the rally held placards that read, “Apartheid Kills!” and “Divest Now!” The rally was punctuated with chants such as, “Free the people. Free the land. Free all South Africans” and “When do we divest? Now!”
Asked why they had joined in the rally, a variety of students said they were there not only because of their concern over apartheid, but also because they resented being portrayed as what one young history major called, “do-nothing, care-nothing, out-for-ourselves yuppies.”
Student president Lurie told the crowd she believes that the press has been mistaken in its portrayal of the current wave of student activism on the South African issue.
“We are not the Free Speech Movement of the ‘80s,” she said, referring to the student activism that erupted on the Berkeley campus in the 1960s.
‘A Different Time’
“This is a different time, and a very different economy,” Lurie explained later in an interview.
“Kids were more comfortable in some ways in the 1960s. They had to worry less about jobs, about simply keeping their lives together. We don’t have to fight for our rights as students now because students in the ‘60s did that for us. We’re fighting for the rights of other people.”
To the north, meanwhile, dozens of faculty members marched through UC Berkeley Tuesday morning, cheering anti-apartheid protesters camped in front of Sproul Hall and then gave UC officials a petition demanding the severance of all ties with companies doing business in South Africa.
UC President David P. Gardner was not at University Hall to receive the petition, which sociology professor Todd Gitlin said was signed by 250 of his colleagues. But Walt Stover, assistant vice president of administrative services, took the petition and promised to pass it along to Gardner.
Gitlin, who said the march was the first all-faculty demonstration in Berkeley’s politically active history, said faculty members plan a larger march Friday to demand Gardner’s answer.
Gitlin said 102 faculty members participated in the march. University officials put the number at 70.
About 150 students, alumni and other anti-apartheid protesters finished their second week camped in front of Sproul Hall, the Berkeley administration building renamed Biko Hall by students in honor of slain South African civil rights leader Steven Biko.
Today has been designated a “national day of action” by the Berkeley students, who have called on students at other campuses around the country to suspend classes and hold teach-ins and rallies on the issues of apartheid and U.S. investment in South Africa.
At the Santa Barbara campus, some 50 students tied a red ribbon around the school’s Administration Building in an apartheid protest. Jim Hickman, UCSB student body spokesman, said the protesting students renamed the building in honor of jailed South African leader Nelson Mandela.
Nancy Netherland, spokeswoman for the Nelson and Winnie Mandela Sit-In Coalition at the University of California, Santa Cruz, said more than 100 colleges and universities have agreed to conduct sit-ins or teach-ins or at least to endorse the movement.
Protest actions reportedly have been planned for today at all UC campuses except the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine. Stanford and some state universities and community colleges also are planning demonstrations, according to the coalition.
At Berkeley, some instructors have agreed to spend this morning discussing apartheid and to suspend afternoon classes so that students may attend a university-sponsored forum on the investment issue.
The forum was one of the things demanded by protesters camped in front of Sproul Hall. UC Berkeley Chancellor Ira Heyman and UC President David P. Gardner have agreed to attend the forum, as have nine regents.
The university regents, who rejected divestment by an 11-6 vote in 1977, have agreed to look at the issue again at their June meeting at UC Santa Cruz.
Contributing to this article were Times staff writers Mark Stein in San Francisco and Leonard Greenwood in Los Angeles.