February 12, 1986
AIRLINE TERMINAL BOMBARDED BY BEACHBALLS
By Paul DeRienzo
An unusual scene developed at the South African Airways terminal at New
York's Kennedy Airport Feb. 1. As passengers checked their baggage to
board the weekly flight to Johannesburg, they were handed leaflets with
an anti-apartheid message and approached by people, each carrying a large
box. The box was unwrapped to expose a cardboard coffin containing the
"body" of a black victim of apartheid.
In the confusion that followed, dozens of waiting passengers gathered
as bones and feathers were dumped on the floor in front of the ticketing
area. Scores of' inflated beachballs scrawled with political messages
were strewn throughout the waiting area.
The action was sponsored by a coalition of groups including Brook-lyinites
Against Apartheid; South African Military Refugee Aid Fund, a group of
white South African draft resisters and political dissidents; the New
York City Greens; Red Balloon Collective; and independent activists and
college students. In the words of one activist, a white political- exile
from South Africa, "Apartheid as the monstrosity that it is because
of white support. And then you try to pretend that everything’s
just fine and you go about the world wanting to be treated like everyone
else. Well, we'd like to send a message back, with you on this trip "
The demonstration provoked a variety of responses from passengers and
terminal employees. One South African stated, ''Our blacks live better
than you people."
However, a few while South Africans expressed support for the crowd of
about 30 demonstrators who marched chanting through the terminal for 45
minutes. At one point several passengers stuck fingers in their ears,
to block out the chanting while another group nearby cheered and stuck
their fists into the air.
It took more than five minutes for Port Authority police to arrive. One
witness blamed the delay on demonstrators who had chained gates shut blocking
access to the terminal. Inside, police kept a cool distance from the demonstrators
and made no arrests.