Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 33 No. 8. 10 June 1970
South Africa: — 150 arrested
At least 150 students from the University of Witwatersrand, who defied an order banning their protest march against die prolonged detention of 22 Africans under the Terrorism Act were arrested in Johannesburg on 18 May.
The permission granted earlier for a peaceful protest march through the centre of the city to the police headquarters was withdrawn on the authority of the Minister of Justice soon after noon-only two hours before the proposed march. The ban was ordered under the Riotous Assemblies Act by the city's Acting Chief Magistrate, Mr van Heerden.
About one thousand students, walking 12 abreast, defied the order, carrying a huge banner which read: "22 detainess-charge or release". The march, which was silent and orderly, followed a noisy meeting of 2,500 students at the University.
It was the largest student protest ever staged in South Africa, and also the first time a banning order on such a march has been defied. The 22 Africans concerned were arrested a year ago, acquitted by the Supreme Court, and then rearrested as they walked from the court. Under Section 6 of the Terrorism Act, a senior police officer may detain a person indefinitely without recourse to the courts.
Asked why they were defying the ban, one of the students replied: This is a spontaneous demonstration. We cannot compromise on principles." Of the possibility of arrest, he said: "1 suppose they will just have to come and do it."
Office workers pelted the students with litter and eggs, but there were no struggles even when police began to handcuff the students. When the police stopped the marching column, the students sat down in the street and sang the protest song: "We Shall Overcome." They were still singing as they filed into the charge office.