On March 21, 1960, in the apartheid state of South Africa, the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) launched its anti-pass campaign.
Indigenous African people were required to carry identity passes at all times. Under the campaign slogan “No Bail! No Defense! No Fine!” the PAC organized people to leave their passes at home. They planned to fill the jails and shut down the economy.
PAC organizers gathered in Sharpeville, mobilizing people to participate in the nonviolent demonstration, chanting “Our land!” and “Down with passes!” Thousands converged on the police station. The police panicked and opened fire, killing 69 and seriously wounding 180.
“The Sharpevillle massacre catalyzed international support for the anti-apartheid struggle and forced the South African liberation movement to take up arms,” explained attorney Roger Wareham of the Pan African Solidarity Hague Committee (PASHC).
“Black folks in the U.S. faced similar responses to peaceful protests to secure their human rights. On Feb. 8, 1968, Blacks peacefully picketing a segregated bowling alley near the campus of South Carolina State College in Orangeburg were fired on by state troopers. Three were killed and 28 wounded.
“And on May 15, 1970, Black students at Jackson State, a historically Black college, were killed by police while protesting the U.S. invasion of Cambodia. These little-known events helped transform the movement from civil rights into one for human rights and the Black Power Movement.
“Today, the attack on African people is relentless and all-encompassing,” said Wareham. “Now more than ever, we must understand what Malcolm X and Dr. [Martin Luther] King told us.”
A PASHC commemoration forum, “The Lessons of Sharpeville, Orangeburg, and Jackson State,” will be held on Thursday, March 20 at 6:30 p.m. at Medgar Evers College, 1637 Bedford Ave. Speakers will include attorneys King Downing, Alfred Toussaint and Wareham.