Jackson addresses HarvardBy Donald Yee
The Rev. Jesse Jackson called upon Harvard University to divest itself of $565 million worth of stock in corporations that do business in South Africa during a speech delivered Thursday in Harvard Yard.
The Harvard-Radcliffe Coalition for Divestiture, sponsors of the rally, claimed a turnout of over 7000 spectators. Harvard officials estimated a crowd of about 5000.
The rally was held on the seventeenth anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. "[Dr. King] did not die just then," Jackson said. "He continues to die and continues to bleed with every investment in South Africa."
Jackson attacked the Reagan Administration's civil rights record, declaring, "Ultimately, Dr. King's life proved that to be morally right is stronger than military might. That is why there is a holiday for Martin Luther King but there will never be [one] for Ronald Reagan."
Jackson stressed the need for Harvard's divestiture, saying, "Harvard shares its honor and credibility and good name with South Africa. Harvard's stock in South Africa must be withdrawn."
"Harvard's leadership in divestment could further weaken South Africa's standing in the world," Jackson continued. "Whenever Harvard invests in South Africa the profits and taxes realized by South Africa fuels apartheid."
Mfanafuthi J. Makhatini of the African National Congress, another speaker at the rally, justified the recent outbreaks of violence in South Africa at a post-rally press conference. "Having tried a non-violent struggle for over 50 years and having failed, our people have been left with no choice but to take up arms," he said.
A group led by students from the Harvard Law School began a "24-hour vigil for divestment" in front of Massachusetts Hall, the building containing the office of Harvard President Derek Bok, following Jackson's speech.
The demonstrators sang, read poems and chanted protest slogans during their encampment. The protest included a 9 pm procession in memory of black South Africans. The procession culminated in front of Massachusetts Hall with the planting of mock gravestones listing the names of those killed.
The demonstrators remained overnight, many of them foregoing shelter despite intermittent rain during the night. They blocked the main entrance of the building as administrative officials reported for work the next morning, making entrance through the front "as near impossible as possible without being impossible," according to one protester.
There were no incidents of violence during the protest, which concluded Friday at 3 pm.