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Police Whips Drive Singing Youths From Cape Town Shopping Center

Times Staff Writer

Three hundred schoolchildren, holding anti-apartheid signs and singing “We Are the World,” on Wednesday were driven out of a shopping center in downtown Cape Town and then up the city’s main street by police whipping them as they ran.

Five of the youths, all mixed-race Coloreds in their early teens, were arrested under South Africa’s internal security regulations for participating in an “illegal meeting,” according to police, and at least 30 were treated in local clinics for the long welts and cuts left by the police whips.

Police clashed throughout Wednesday with youths in the Colored townships around Cape Town in protests arising out of the arrest last week of the Rev. Allan Boesak, a prominent anti-apartheid activist from the Colored community, and police action to break up a march he planned on the prison where black nationalist leader Nelson Mandela is held.

Dozens of roads, several of them major highways, were closed as the youths set up burning barricades of tires, oil drums, wrecked cars, furniture and felled telephone poles, according to police. Passing cars were stoned on other roads, and several delivery trucks were set on fire.

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School Attendance Drops

Thousands of students were on the streets as school attendance dropped to less than a quarter of normal; of 86 Colored high schools in the area, only one held normal classes.

A protest meeting by 4,000 students in Athlone, one of the city’s Colored suburbs, turned into a tense, two-hour confrontation as youths hurled firebombs made from gasoline-filled bottles with lighted paper wicks at police patrolling in armored cars. The police replied at first with tear-gas grenades and rubber bullets and then fired military assault rifles and shotguns loaded with buckshot before the youths were dispersed, according to local newsmen.

Large funerals for three Colored youths killed last week also turned into demonstrations against South Africa’s apartheid system of racial separation and minority white rule, local newsmen said. The three were buried under the flag of the outlawed African National Congress in a striking indication of the growing radicalism in Cape Town’s generally conservative Colored community.

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Salvos of Tear Gas

Police later dispersed the mourners with salvos of tear gas that hung in thick clouds over the two communities where the funerals were held.

At least 40 youths were wounded in these clashes, according to police, but only one death, that of a man whose body was found early Wednesday, was reported.

The home of a member of the Colored House of Representatives in the tricameral South African Parliament was extensively damaged by firebombs early Wednesday, police reported, and arsonists attacked government offices, liquor stores and other shops as the rioting spread north from Cape Town.

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The demonstration in central Cape Town’s Golden Acre shopping plaza, a few blocks from Parliament, had just begun Wednesday morning, according to witnesses, when police without any apparent warning began to club the 300 singing, chanting teen-agers with riot batons and to whip them with four-foot-long plastic quirts.

‘A Terrific Beating’

The police then chased the youths up the main street of Cape Town’s central business district, whipping them all the way, as office workers and shopkeepers watched in horror, witnesses said. Some youths later regrouped, again singing the African famine relief song “We Are the World,” but were chased and whipped a second time by police.

“Many of these kids took a terrific beating from the police, who seemed intent on flaying them alive,” Peter Lockesmith, a passing businessman, said later. “Some were so badly whipped that their shirts were shredded and covered with blood. One girl fell and two big, hulking policemen just stood over and whipped her for a full minute and then went after someone else.”

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“These weren’t big kids, but perhaps 13-, 14- and 15-year-olds,” he said. “I found it all very disturbing. It is hard to see how singing, ‘We Are the World,’ warranted this action.”

Further unrest was reported from the University of Cape Town and Rhodes University in Grahamstown, two of South Africa’s leading universities, as groups of mostly white students demonstrated against apartheid.

At Rhodes, police used whips to disperse several hundred students and teachers, arresting 24, including two university physicians. At the University of Cape Town, school officials negotiated permission for 150 students to demonstrate on the campus overlooking a main road out of the city during the evening rush hour; most held up signs reading, “Release Mandela.”

Policeman Slain

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The burnt body of a black police constable was found early Wednesday at Tantje near Grahamstown, about 500 miles south of Johannesburg, under a pile of tires that had been doused with gasoline and set afire in what has become a ritual of execution for black policemen, local officials and others seen as collaborating with the minority white regime and supporting apartheid.

Two white army conscripts died outside Grahamstown, the police announced Wednesday, when their armored car overturned after colliding with a truck on Monday. In a year of unrest, three whites have been killed by blacks, and one other, also a soldier, has died in a traffic accident.

More incidents of arson, stone-throwing and other protests were reported from black townships around East London, Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage in eastern Cape province; in Soweto, Johannesburg’s populous black suburb, and in Pietersburg in northeastern Transvaal province where 4,000 students at the all-black University of the North are boycotting classes at the school’s Turfloop campus.

The three-day strike by the all-black National Union of Mineworkers at 10 gold and coal mines ended Wednesday with one mine reinstating most of the 5,000 miners fired in an effort to break the strike--but a second proceeding with the dismissal of nearly 1,200 for “breach of contract.”

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The union, which plans to challenge the company actions under South African labor law, sought a court injunction barring the dismissals. Production was resumed at all the affected mines except for the one where the miners were being laid off.


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