2,000 police hold rugby protesters

27 November 1969

Yesterday around 25 double-deckers and coaches took more than 1000 students from Liverpool University to the protest anti-apartheid demonstration against the South African rugby match in Manchester – the largest of the demonstrations against the Springboks. The Times this morning reports on yesterday’s protest as follows.  The incident noted at the end of the first paragraph sounds priceless:

More than 2000 policemen, including a mounted detachment of 200 prevented nearly 7000 demonstrators from interrupting the Springboks match against Northern Counties at Stretford near here today. They arrested 150, nearly all students, and 77 people including a young woman were later charged with various offences. The rest were released after being addressed by Mr William Palfrey, Chief Constable of Lancashire, in Stretford police station.

There were two major tussles outside the ground between police and militant students who had crowded to the front of what had started off as an orderly march from the centre of Manchester. Four policemen were injured in the scuffles, two of them being treated in hospital for crushed ribs. Most of the fighting, however, was little more than wrestling between equal forces of young demonstrators and police. No missiles were thrown, apart from some shoes, and fists were raised only once, during a scuffle that led to a mock coffin labelled Sharpeville being broken into pieces. The ugliest moment came when several hundred students broke through one cordon and started throwing shoes at police horses called out from reserve.

More than 40 people were arrested inside the ground as they tried to break in to the pitch. Police detected many forged tickets, and some offensive weapons, including bicycle chains, were taken from demonstrators.  Mr Palfrey said he thought that trouble had been prevented bv the use of a large show of strength. Although the numbers were certainly formidable there was no evidence of police using excessive force,  let alone anything that could be called violence.

The whole operation will cost Lancashire rate payers £500. Mr. Palfrey emphasized that the vast majority of the student demonstrators were “very nice young people” and said their own official leaders had done their best to control them. There was, however, a “militant lunatic fringe” which as usual tried to join in.

Our Labour Staff writes:

The Labour Party national executive yesterday joined the ranks of the opponents of South African tours as they are now organized. The committee unanimously carried a motion tabled by Miss Joan Lestor, MP for Eton and Slough, which condemned racialism in sport, and said that South African teams selected on a racial basis should not be invited to Britain. Mr David Wynn, president of Manchester University Students’ Union, said last night that he had received almost 20 written and other verbal complaints alleging police brutality at the demonstration. He said that those who were detained, but not charged, at the police station were photographed, which was irregular.

“In the main, the police were fairly good, but there were one or two police numbers which crop up several times in the complaints.”

Newcastle: Anti-apartheid demonstrators banged and kicked the car of Dr. Luttig, the South African Ambassador, who was in the Northeast with a trade mission, when he left the Civic Centre after lunch with the Lord Mayor. Five men will appear in court next week on charges arising from the incident.

Earlier this month the Times reported that leading Liberal, John Pardoe had urged all members of his party to disrupt the tour:

Call to disrupt the Springbok tour Mr. John Pardoe, Treasurer of the Liberal Party and MP for Cornwall North, last night urged his party members to do all they could to disrupt the forthcoming Springbok Rugby team tour of Britain. ” Sit down all over the pitch if you have to,” he told an anti-apartheid movement meeting in Brighton. Mr Pardoe described the tour, which begins on November 5, as a test case. “The anti-apartheid movement has been fighting for a long time the idea of visits to Britain by South African sports teams selected on a racial basis,” he said. “In cricket there has been a tremendous row on this issue, and the MCC has made a fool of itself.” Mr Pardoe added: “If we can make enough row, be a big enough menace and be bloody-minded enough, we may be able to destroy totally the sporting exchanges between South Africa and this country”.

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Author: Gerry

Retired college teacher living in Liverpool, UK.

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