Anti-Apartheid Protests Spread Across the U.S.
Anti-apartheid protesters from dozens of college campuses across the nation Wednesday boycotted classes, marched, rallied or spoke in support of a “day of action” opposing American support of the racist policies of South Africa.
More than 300 people were arrested, including 25 who had camped outside the office of UC Davis Chancellor James H. Meyer. Seventy-five students received citations at UC Santa Barbara when they refused to leave an administration building.
The day’s biggest crowd turned out at Berkeley, where 7,000 demonstrators jammed a gymnasium for an apartheid discussion with half of the university’s regents and University of California President David P. Gardner.
The forum had been one of several items demanded by demonstrators who have camped on the steps of Sproul Hall, the administration building, since April 10. About 4,000 people rallied there before the forum Wednesday.
Despite the unusual sight of 14 of the university’s 28 regents attending an informal forum, protesters made it clear that talk alone is not enough.
“Our goal is not a hearing,” demonstration organizer Andrea Pritchitt informed university officials at the forum, while the crowd cheered. “Our goal is total divestiture now.”
Students at all nine UC campuses joined in protests Wednesday in a bid to force that system to divest itself of $1.7 billion in investments in American companies doing business in South Africa.
Indeed, of the nationwide string of demonstrations held, the largest were in California. In addition to Berkeley, there were 2,500 people at UC Santa Cruz, 2,000 each at UC San Diego and UC Davis and 800 at Stanford University.
Other protests occurred at USC, San Jose State University, Humboldt State University, San Francisco State and the University of San Francisco.
Bart Stratton, spokesman for the UC Santa Cruz Student Divestment and Anti-Apartheid Coalition, said that at least some students at 22 colleges across the country reported they had boycotted classes. Marches and rallies were reported at 51 other schools, he said, and students at 60 more endorsed the anti-apartheid movement.
Despite the large number of schools reporting some action--a figure that could not be confirmed--the number of students participating at most schools was apparently small. Organizers were happy nonetheless.
“The nationwide strike looks like it is going really well,” said Brenda Folstad, a spokeswoman for the coalition that organized the national action. “Some are really getting radical--taking over buildings and things.”
Students occupied campus buildings at Harvard, Boston College, Colgate, Stanford, Princeton and Rutgers. At UCLA, between 50 and 75 students planned to spend the night in Murphy Hall, the administration building, and at California State University, Northridge, 25 students said they would “sleep-in” at the administration building.
On the steps of Berkeley’s Sproul Hall, the administration building renamed Biko Hall by protesters in honor of slain South African apartheid foe Steven Biko, speakers urged rejection of University Chancellor Ira M. Heyman’s call for “selective divestment” from companies that discriminate against black employees.
“We’re not going to accept anything-- anything-- except full divestment,” Mia Laurence, a student, told the cheering crowd.
Pedro Noguera, president-elect of the Associated Students and an early organizer of campus anti-apartheid demonstrators, earned more cheers when he declared: “Today represents a major victory for the movement.”
“The fact is that . . . this meeting today with President Gardner and the regents is a clear sign they are feeling the pressure and we are having an effect,” he said.
Heyman, in an interview during the forum, conceded that “if the demonstrators had not asked for this forum, it would not have occurred.,”
He said the forum was also having an effect on him. “I’ve got to rethink this, I really do,” he said, referring to the divestiture demand. “This has been a very educational experience.”
Gardner, however, told students he still was undecided, and he was hissed.
Speakers, including San Francisco investment counselor John Harrington, had told Heyman, Gardner and the regents that “socially responsible” investment portfolios had done better than several standard portfolios that included stock in companies that do business in South Africa.
University officials have said that about $1.7 billion of its $5.5 billion in investments are in firms that operate in South Africa. Regents in the past have balked at withdrawing the funds, most of which are pension funds for system employees, because they said they are obligated to earn the highest return they can.
At Berkeley, however, many beneficiaries of the investments, such as clerks and faculty members, have joined the call for divestiture. “Surely,” faculty members said in one petition given Gardner, “there is more at stake here than a profitable return on investments or fiduciary responsibility.”
At Stanford, students marched to the university president’s office, where 400 of them squeezed inside for a sit-in. President Donald Kennedy was out of town until this morning, so students decided to stay overnight.
“We don’t want our education financed by the blood of the South African people,” demonstration organizer Steve Phillips, president of the Black Students Union, told protesters. He blasted the university for “an investment policy that reeks of moral depravity.”
Dressed in Blazers
At USC, about 400 students, led by men dressed in Navy blazers and ties and women in pearl necklaces and high-heeled shoes, chanted, carried placards and cheered speakers who denounced racism and called for an end to apartheid.
A hand-painted sign had been hung over the entrance to the administration building, renaming it Bishop Desmond Tutu Hall in honor of the black South African leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner.
A university spokesman said USC has $19 million--11.1% of the university’s total endowment pool--invested in firms with ties in that country. University President James H. Zumberg has appointed a commission to examine investment policies.
As the anti-apartheid movement spread to campuses across the country, about 50 Harvard students invaded university offices and staged a sit-in. Boston College students planned to camp in their school’s library until midnight.
In Madison, Wis., about 1,000 University of Wisconsin students marched to the state Capitol where some of them settled into Gov. Anthony Earl’s conference room and forced him to postpone a scheduled meeting.
More than 300 protesters were arrested Wednesday at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., bringing to more than 900 the number of arrests made there since its students started anti-apartheid rallies last Thursday.
In the only such incident at Berkeley, one man was arrested for blocking a driveway while picketing at the campus.
At Columbia University, about 400 students rallied before preparing to end their four-week blockade of a campus building, which was recently declared illegal by a New York judge. But student spokesman John Klavens promised some “escalations” of their protest on Friday.
Contributing to this story were Times staff writers Miles Corwin in Santa Barbara, Dan Morain and Saul Rubin in Berkeley, Anne C. Roark in Los Angeles and Louis Sahagun in Riverside.