After a brief exchange with the South African consul general, a group of black community figures on Friday ended their 24-hour anti-apartheid sit-in at the South African Consulate in Beverly Hills, vowing, "We will be back."
Singing "We Shall Overcome" and other anthems associated with the civil rights movement, the protesters, including Assemblywoman Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) and Bishop H. H. Brookins of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, folded their metal chairs, packed up their sleeping bags and left the consulate in an orderly procession shortly before noon.
On arriving at the consulate in a Wilshire Boulevard bank building 24 hours earlier, the protesters had pledged to stay until they could meet with Consul General Les Labuschagne to voice their criticisms of South Africa's racial policies.
During Friday's meeting, which took place when the consul general passed through the lobby en route to his office, Labuschagne promised to convey their concerns to his government. It was the first meeting between Labuschagne and the protesters since they began sporadic demonstrations at the consulate last fall.
Although Brookins said he was "insulted" by the counsel general's attempt to "undercut the significance" of the protest by meeting with the group in the lobby, the bishop called the sit-in a "huge success."
"We raised the consciousness of more people and we escalated the pressure," Brookins said.
Throughout their vigil, the demonstrators said they realized they could be arrested. However, authorities made no effort to evict them from the building.
The protest--the fourth at the consulate since November--was planned to coincide with those in Washington, Seattle and other cities, Waters said. At various times during the sit-in, the demonstrators were joined by supporters who brought them food and gave them support. In all, about 15 protesters spent the night in the consulate lobby.
"We're part of a national effort that's not going to go away," Waters said. "Our 24 hours are up. We're leaving, but we will be back."