UC Berkeley 1985-6 anti-apartheid demonstrations

Pedro Noguera

Andrea Pritchett
Andrea Prtichett in 2007, NYU Professor Pedro Noguera

photo-Aceh (Indonesian province) warriors; photo by Billy Nessen

-Nessen filming “The Black Road” in Indonesia, before the Acef-Indonesian government peace treaty of 2005
From 1984-86 an office suite on the sixth floor served as headquarters for the Campaign Against Apartheid, one of the key student organizations then agitating for full divestment of the university portfolio from companies doing business in apartheid South Africa.
613 Eshleman Hall is where CAA and friends made press calls, monitored police radio, raised funds, set up meetings with labor and community groups, and conspired late into the night. We held loooooooooong meetings in the sixth floor lobby, though they weren’t as long as the nightly meetings of sit-in participants during the six weeks of April-May 1985 when students, faculty, and community members occupied Sproul Plaza (renamed
BikoPlaza in honor of the eponymous South African Black Consciousness martyr) … a sit-in instigated and sustained by CAA. Those meetings, held from just after dinner until at least three quarters of participants were pulling their hair out, seemed to run on interminably.
               Berkeley’s Anti-Apartheid Demonstrations of 1985-6
  April 1985–demonstrations broke out aimed to stop financial investments of the UC Regents in the apartheid regime of South Africa. UC Berkeley student body president Pedro Noguera was a leader; Billy Nessen and Andrea Prichett of the Campaign Against Apartheid (C.A.A.) were also leaders.
  The main plaza at Cal Berkeley is large and Berkeley adjoins Oakland, CA; it is very cosmopolitan and in a large population area.  In 1986 Congress overrode Reagan’s veto to pass an anti-apartheid act and the UC Regents voted to withdraw $3 billion in investments in the apartheid regime of South Africa.  What lay behind this?
  Both Bishop Desmond Tutu and some members of the African National Congress visited the Berkeley area during the mid-1980s and were very forthright, as one ANC member at the student union at Cal Berkeley answered the question about Marxists in the ANC by saying, “First freedom, then we will deal with the Marxists (or Marxism).”  Tutu was very well received in his speech off-campus.  Apparently a similar stance to the ANC was what the Campaign Against Apartheid came up with.
  Student body president Noguera had a nonconfrontational and law-abiding approach that was used somewhat in protests at UC but did not get the national publicity that “the illegal moves” in front of the chancellor’s office on the Berkeley campus–wooden structures built there and maintained in spite of a fire warden’s warning/dispersal order given at 2 a.m. two nights in a row by a tactical squad that beat up demonstrators who refused to leave and were arrested.  The NY Times carried the story on its frontpage of the 61 students/activists arrested. The NY Times article apparently followed the line that the C.A.A. wanted–that these were more or less spontaneous demonstrations, somewhat a stretch of the truth.  I recall how Billy Nessen one spring 1985 night wanted surreptiously to get more violence going at the Faculty Club and nearly succeeded in that; however, his being the lead-activist was no easy role, and his knee hurt after that arrest night; I motioned toward his knee and he replied, “Don’t.”  I asked him, “Is that your last word?” He replied, “Do.”
  The Marxists wanted to burn the shops on Telegraph Avenue that leads to the campus.  Billy survived, thank God, and survived his episode later in Aceh, Indonesia to marry an Aceh woman, as news from some years ago has it.  Another person at Cal Berkeley had his hand blown off by a bomb planted in a computer building during these demonstration days.  An activist from room 613 at Eshleman Hall had called in his last anonymous news-sheet published there for tough/violent tactics. Another facet was a court case in Oakland on the legality of the crackdown on the UC Berkeley demonstrations–the black judge hearing the case ruled that it was legal
but cautioned the two UC lawyers to the tune that “there were limits to the whole situation.”  Yes, I saw and heard that trial; saw and heard the news-sheet guy at 613 Eshleman.
  One afternoon a Chinese student asked Andrea Prichett in the main Cal plaza about the strange 75% vote-requirement necessary to get a student initiative through concerning the demonstrations.  Andrea answered tersely that it was so.  Yeah, no doubt the C.A.A. engineered and kept a lock on the direction of the activist-demonstrations at Berkeley.
-R, Mt. Shasta, CA
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