fisttap Africa Is A CountryToday, March 21, is Human Rights Day in South Africa. It should be called Sharpeville Day instead. 50 years ago today White police attacked and killed 69 Black protesters and also wounded or injured several others who were peacefully protesting the pass laws which restricted the free movement of Black South Africans.
...Then a new and more militant organization called the Pan-African Congress decided to oppose the passbook grievance and urged Africans all over the Union to descend upon their local police stations—without their passbooks, without arms, without violence—and demand to be arrested. In a few spots, the turnout was impressive. At Orlando township in the outskirts of Johannesburg, 20,000 Africans milled around the police station, led by Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, 36, a Methodist-reared university instructor, who heads the Pan-African Congress. Fifteen miles to the south, in Evaton, 70,000 Africans turned out. The police made few arrests of the demonstrators; at Langa, near Cape Town, they opened fire to disperse the Africans, killing three and wounding 25.
At first, everything was relatively quiet, too, at the Sharpeville police station, 28 miles southwest of Johannesburg—but Sharpeville was soon to become a headline name the world over. Twenty police, nervously eying a growing mob of 20,000 Africans demanding to be arrested, barricaded themselves behind a 4-ft. wire-mesh fence surrounding the police station. The crowd's mood was ugly, and 130 police reinforcements, supported by four Saracen armored cars, were rushed in. Sabre jets and Harvard Trainers zoomed within a hundred feet of the ground, buzzing the crowd in an attempt to scatter it. The Africans responded by hurling stones, which rattled harmlessly off the armored cars and into the police compound, stinging three policemen.
Chain Reaction. At 1: 20 p.m., the blowup came.
When police tried to seize an African at the gate to the compound, there was a scuffle and the crowd advanced toward the fence. Police Commander G. D. Pienaar rapped out an order to his men to load. Within minutes, almost in a chain reaction, the police began firing with revolvers, rifles, Sten guns. A woman shopper patronizing a fruit stand at the edge of the crowd was shot dead. A ten-year-old boy toppled. Crazily, the unarmed crowd stampeded to safety as more shots rang out, leaving behind hundreds lying dead or wounded—many of them shot in the back.
It was all over in two. awful. minutes....
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