Berkeley campus regains '60s prominence as hotbed of protest. More students arrested, but violence checked
Berkeley, Calif. — Student protesters and police stood toe to toe again this week at the University of California campus here, but so far cooler heads have prevailed. Although antiapartheid demonstrators continue to be arrested, the process has been peaceful -- in stark contrast to last week's clash between police and protesters. After last Thursday's melee, in which 91 protesters were arrested and 28 civilians or officers injured, Chancellor Ira Michael Heyman said, ``The violence was about as bad as anything that happened in the '60s.''
Students at some 50 other campuses nationwide last week built ``shanty towns,'' symbolizing the living conditions of blacks in South Africa, or held rallies, marches, or teach-ins. The activities were organized to protest South Africa's policy of strict racial segregation and to intensify pressure on universities to divest their stock portfolios of US companies that have business ties with South Africa, according to the American Committee on Africa, which coordinated the action.
About 200 protesters from seven schools were arrested between March 21 and April 4, but confrontation flared into violence only at UC Berkeley. Assistant Chancellor John Cummins said, ``It's not surprising that we have more activity here,'' because the campus and surrounding community are one of the major ``centers of protest in the country.''
Although antiapartheid protesters have been highly visible on campus for the past two years, this year's protests ``have been provocative and illegal from the beginning,'' says university spokesman Ray Colvig. The university has responded, he says, with tough measures that have not been used since the Vietnam war protests -- the use of force by police, banning about 40 nonstudent activists from campus, and raising the possibility of suspension or academic probation for protesting students.
Organizers have disagreed over tactics. During Tuesday's protest, in which about 500 demonstrators blocked all four entrances to the main administration building until midafternoon, organizers repeatedly emphasized the nonviolent nature of the action.
Bill Bogert of UC Berkeley Campaign Against Apartheid, one of the organizing groups, said Tuesday's action ``sent out a nice image of nonviolence.'' But his group, which he described as ``a bit more militant although still nonviolent,'' hopes to rebuild shanties and does not want to be ``quite so cooperative'' during arrests.
Protesters Tuesday presented the chancellor with a list of 14 demands, several of which involved requests that the university divest $2.4 billion in investments in companies doing business in South Africa. He also agreed to close a campus store that sells products made by IBM and Hewlett Packard, which do business in South Africa.
Last month the Board of Regents, which oversees investments for all nine of the University of California campuses, voted for the first time to sell $12 million worth of stock in a corporation because of its business record in South Africa.
But the divestiture, which represents one-half of 1 percent of all university holdings in companies that do business in South Africa, is ``a token gesture,'' one student says.