The price for protest goes up
Austin, Texas — Amid chants of ``UT pays the bills, apartheid kills,'' and ``UT out of South Africa,'' Theresa Case raised a bullhorn to address a large noontime crowd at the University of Texas campus here last Friday. ``People have an obligation to stop crimes against humanity,'' said Ms. Case, who the day before had been sentenced to 90 days in jail and a $200 fine for her part in seizing the university president's office last October. Sixteen protesters vowed they would not leave until UT divested all its investments in South Africa. Instead they were removed by police and charged with disruptive activity.
Until now, few participants in anti-apartheid, pro-divestment demonstrations on campuses around the country have paid a stiff legal price for their activism. But that may be changing. Several of the featured speakers at Friday's rally were among 11 students who had received the toughest sentences yet for anti-apartheid demonstrations. Three received five-month sentences and fines, while eight were sentenced to three months and fines.
As in most such cases, the prosecution in the UT case recommended that the students receive probationary sentences, along with some community service. But the judge believed that more than a slap on the wrist was called for.
In 1985 four State University of New York students served a week for their participation in anti-apartheid protests, but the university divested shortly thereafter - with some regents saying they had been moved by the students' willingness to serve time for their cause.
It seems unlikely the Texas regents will be similarly moved: The university has a reputation for low tolerance to challenges of its governance. But with UT now holding the largest investments linked to South Africa of any US university, students here say their protests will continue - despite any ``chilling'' effect last week's sentences may have.
The judge and the university ``would like to think the end of the line for the anti-apartheid train is us sitting in jail for three to six months,'' said Daniel Gohl, a graduate student in physics who received a five-month sentence. ``We say there are a few more stops, and we're going to continue fighting for divestment any way we can.''