Apartheid Stirs Politicians, Students : Bradley, Cranston Attack It; Protest Staged at Regents Meeting
South Africa’s apartheid system brought California Democratic politicians to the campaign stump and students to their feet in a clamorous protest that led to one arrest at UCLA Friday.
Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, who is running for governor, and Sen. Alan Cranston, who is facing a tough reelection battle, spoke to about 100 students at UCLA, drawing cheers for attacking South Africa’s racist system and calling for divestment of the University of California’s $2.4 billion in holdings in companies that do business in South Africa.
They also seized the opportunity to criticize their Republican opponents, Gov. George Deukmejian and Rep. Ed Zschau (R-Los Altos) for failing to support full divestment proposals.
However, the students were more fired up about a UC regents meeting being held just a few hundred yards away than they were about the political speeches. After Bradley and Cranston went their separate ways to waiting sedans, the students poured into the room where the regents were meeting. Behind them, other students hoisted a makeshift plywood shanty, covered with red and orange signs that said “divest.”
“Apartheid kills, while UC counts its dollar bills!” shouted a group that had swelled to about 150. The regents, who had taken a recess, looked surprised at the outburst, while Chancellor Charles E. Young appeared visibly angry, yelling and pointing to security personnel.
Variations of familiar cheers, accompanied with applause and stomping, continued: “UC regents you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide.”
After several minutes, Chairman Vilma Martinez announced from her seat that the protesters were disrupting the proceedings, declared another recess and told the students to clear the room or campus police would remove them. The noise level rose as the chant became “Murderers! Murderers!”
As helmeted campus police began to hover near the doors, the protesters slowly filed out. After the meeting adjourned, some students formed a human chain across a driveway, attempting to block cars driven by the regents as they left the parking lot.
Darlene Skeels, UCLA spokeswoman, said one unidentified 14-year-old, not a UCLA student, “shoved” an officer and was arrested for battery, before he was later released to his parents.
The side-by-side appearances by Bradley and Cranston happened more by accident than design. The two Democrats had not planned on joining forces and inadvertently found out late Thursday that they were both going to the same event.
Cranston attacked opponent Zschau for opposing a bill passed in the House of Representatives this week that would virtually end trade with South Africa. Zschau has said that the United States “can’t help apartheid by terminating the only positive influence we have in South Africa.”
“Had he been in Congress when the Emancipation Proclamation was drawn,” Cranston said of Zschau, “he probably would have said . . . don’t free the slaves, that would mean unemployment in the South.”
Bradley, repeating some of a speech he made last week against Deukmejian, scoffed at a proposal the governor made on Wednesday that the regents should consider toughening their policy on investing in firms doing business with South Africa. Deukmejian and the regents last year rejected pleas to divest UC holdings in companies with ties to the strife-ridden country.
“I don’t know where he’s been,” Bradley said. “Does he need a building to fall on him to realize the oppression, repression, denial of basic human rights going on in South Africa?”
Bradley last year proposed a program approved by the City Council that included, among other things, divestiture of city deposits from banks doing business in South Africa over the next few years.
However, Bradley bristled when reminded by a student that in 1982 he had given the key to the city to the South African consul general.
“What about the key?” a student yelled out.
“Next question,” Bradley replied.
Bradley last year said he gave the key because the consul general asked for an appointment “and I responded as I always do.”
“I presented the key, and in the course of the conversation in my office, I raised the objection that I have always had to apartheid,” he said.
Friday, he refused to discuss it, saying curtly, “I’m not going to explain it anymore.”
The Deukmejian campaign said that Bradley was trying to make political hay out of the South African conflict.
“For the mayor to try to capitalize on the suffering associated with South African apartheid for his own narrow partisan purposes is unseemly and shameful,” spokesman Kevin Brett said.
In refuting Bradley’s statements, Brett revived the specter of a different racial controversy Bradley faced last year, when Black Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan visited Los Angeles. Because of anti-Semitic remarks Farrakhan had made in previous speeches, Jews urged Bradley to denounce him before he spoke. Bradley chose instead to remain silent until after Farrakhan spoke, later denouning his “message of hate.”
“The mayor’s silence was ringing when he refused to utter one word of condemnation against the well-known bigot Farrakhan,” Brett said.