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A Reporter Asks: Why Are You Here?

A Reporter Asks: Why Are You Here? image
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Agenda Publications
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On Friday, April 4, 1986, the anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., approximately 500 people marched through the streets of Ann Arbor to protest racism at the University of Michigan and apartheid in South Africa.

A member of Agenda's staff carried a tape recorder and asked people: "Why are you here?"

Neil Foley, graduate student

I guess like so many other people here today, I'm disturbed by the United State's policy toward South Africa. I'm referring to the policy of constructive engagement and I believe that we have to take more active measures against the apartheid regime, the apartheid system of South Africa.

I also think the United State's foreign policy is so misguided with regard to Central America and South America in general. I think they're indicative of a strange and perverse sense of ideals that I'm not--that I don't want to have any part of.

So I'm out on the streets today to make my point, to join others who want to make a similar point. I think it's a good sign that a lot of people are starting to wake up to the injustice in South Africa and want to do something about it.

Christina Landeryou, student

I'm here because I believe in what's happening and I feel that what's going on in South Africa is wrong and the United States should take stronger action against it.

Doris Wilson, member planning committee for march and a member of the Black Law Student Alliance

Well, this is the culmination of two weeks of national action against racism and apartheid that myself and members of the planning committee have put on.

We have about three or four goals. We want the University to divest the rest of the money that have invested in the South African corporations. We want to stop the racist graffitti on this campus and all the racist comments that have been made. We want to honor Nelson Mandela with an honorary degree, and also, the whole march is to bring attention to the plight of the people in South Africa in Namibia, and to say that they must be free now, and that we here in America have the means in which to bring about this change.

So I guess we're sending a message to President Reagan that we, the students here at the University of Michigan want something to be done about the situation in South Africa, and we want to bring about change, now.

Michael Tresh, student

I'm here to try to show some support for anti-apartheid groups. I'm really not too involved in it, and I just felt like I should get out and do something. My views are not as strong as some of these people's but I feel I just should get out, you know, and show some support. I'm pretty happy, pretty satisfied at the big turn-out and I think a lot of people in Ann Arbor are going to hear the message that the march is trying to give about down with apartheid and more freedom around the world, not just in South Africa.

Nicole Pinsky, student

I'm here because I think that this is a combination of two weeks of some really important stuff. If we can show how many of us care and how many of us feel this is important, we can get the University to divest, get more people to think about it.

The more people who see things, the more people who think, the more people are ready to pull our investments out of South Africa. We've gotten a good turn-out in spite of the weather, which is really good. If people stay fired up and stick with it and if we get the coverage we need, it should be a good thing. We should get a lot of thought and that really helps.

John E. Mack, Psychiatrist, Harvard Law School

My wife and I are visiting our son here on the campus. We are marching and we are really impressed with the conviction that is present here about the South African issue of apartheid, and to see this, that emerging excitement and concern with social values on the campus is really impressive to us. We wanted to get a feeling for it and I know Tony is very committed on this issue and on the struggle in Nicaragua and so we wanted to chat with him.

Steve Meyers, student

I'm here basically to show solidarity with the people of South Africa and those in this country that are victims of racism. I think this will do a lot of good and we can educated people to the problems in South Africa and elsewhere.

Kevin A. Hill, student

I'm here to protest the evil apartheid system in South Africa which is oppressing and killing many people day-in and day-out and I think it is not just political but I think it is a moral and just cause.

Andre Thornton, mental health worker

Well, first of all I noticed the gathering. Then I noticed the colors of the flags that were being held and they definitely looked familiar, so I thought I'd stop and take a look and see what was going on over here. It looks like a peaceful get-together, and I was concerned and I was curious so I thought I'd stop in. 

I haven't had a chance to observe and listen to the speeches that have been given. I'm going to stand around for a little while and take notice and maybe pick up a few things that I probably haven't heard already. I noticed that it's Free South Africa, the banner there, so I'm already curious. I'd just like to find out more about what's giving and what's going on.

Ted Tsao, student

Well, I'm not really a person who's really involved in all this. I mean, I know about it from the outside, but I feel, you know, strongly that one day out of a whole year that they're asking people to come out here to fight racism and apartheid. I think that it's the least I could do and I'm really sad there aren't more people out here and there aren't more students, you know ,so that's basically how I feel.

I think it's been run very well. But as I said, again, I just wish there were more people. You know, out of a school of forty-thousand people, I feel more students would be conscious of what's going on here, at least give one day or one hour of their time, and I don't feel it's too much to ask.

Peter Konigsberg, high school student

I'm here because I don't believe in apartheid in the South African government system. It's going pretty well. I wish there were more, there's a lot of people here, but I wish there were more. I think it's going really well.

Jeff Epton, city council representative

I'm here because I believe the march is sending the best possible message against apartheid. I'm amazed at the turn-out. It's a far bigger march than I expected. I've seen a lot of marches in the past, intending to make a political point just as strong, which were weakly supported by the community. They were hoping to reach, clearly, the issue has a tremendous amount of momentum. It's a surprise to me that the Ann Arbor pension board has decided to fly in the face of morality and refuse to divest at this point. Though I know that the march is about U of M investment in South Africa.