The followers of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., meeting here to celebrate the first national holiday in honor of the slain civil rights leader, vowed Sunday to support the use of King's tactics of nonviolence in the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.
A capacity audience reacted enthusiastically as South African Bishop Desmond Tutu mounted the pulpit of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King had served as co-pastor, and called for the aid of Americans in a campaign of nonviolence he said he will wage in his homeland this spring unless the South African government makes "significant changes" in its apartheid policies.
"We need you, we need you, because when black people act nonviolently, they provoke the violence on the other side," Tutu said to thunderous applause. "We need you so that they (the white South African government) will know that you are with us."
40 Nations Represented
Tutu spoke as part of a daylong anti-apartheid conference honoring King on the eve of the holiday marking his birth. Coretta Scott King, King's widow and head of the Atlanta-based Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, said: "We want this to be the launching of a new and intensified phase in the struggle to end apartheid. We will not rest until apartheid is finally abandoned."
More than 40 nations were represented by participants at the sessions.
Prominent in the audience were Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, a former King lieutenant, and Atlanta City Councilman John Lewis, who led the "Bloody Sunday" march 21 years ago in Selma, Ala., which ended in a violent confrontation between the unarmed voting-rights marchers and club-wielding state troopers and sheriff's deputies.
On the stage with Tutu and Mrs. King was another former King aide, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, the first black to make a serious campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Would Have Been 57
The conference in opposition to South Africa's policies of strict racial segregation was part of nine days of activities in honor of King in his hometown of Atlanta. King, who was killed by a sniper's bullet as he stood on the balcony of a Memphis, Tenn., motel, would have been 57 this month.
A candlelight memorial service was held Sunday night at King's tomb in Atlanta. Vice President George Bush and Mrs. King are scheduled to place a wreath at the tomb today.
Today's scheduled observances include "Living the Dream," a musical celebration by several top recording stars and others in Washington, New York City and Atlanta. Participants will include Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Quincy Jones, Jackson and Patti Labelle, with Harry Belafonte and Bill Cosby as co-hosts.
A parade is planned in Birmingham, Ala., to Kelly Ingram Park, where a 14-foot monument to King will be unveiled and where King spoke and marched in the early 1960s.
Students Plan to Fast
Students at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Ore., planned to begin a five-day fast to protest race discrimination. The fast, sponsored by the private college's South Africa Action Group, is aimed at showing support for American and South African blacks in their struggle for civil rights.
Tutu, the black Anglican archbishop of Johannesburg and the 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner, will be the keynote speaker in Los Angeles tonight at a King birthday dinner celebration at the Bonaventure Hotel.
In Atlanta Sunday, Tutu said: "Our people are peaceful to a fault. We stand up and we keep saying: 'We will use peaceful means.' And each time we say that, they use tear gas, dogs, bullets and whips. Our people are killed as if they are flies, you know, like they are swatting flies and it doesn't really matter."
Tutu did not elaborate on his proposed civil disobedience campaign and was not asked about it in the brief question-and-answer period with members of the audience before he left the church.