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Black Caucus Calls Reagan Stand Racist : Criticizes Him for Remarks on Deaths of S. Africa Protesters

March 22, 1985|From Times Wire Services

WASHINGTON — The Congressional Black Caucus today condemned President Reagan's remarks on the latest violence in South Africa and branded his comment that black policemen were involved in the shooting deaths of 18 blacks a "racist statement."

"It is clear the President has a double standard when it comes to people of color," said Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.), a member of the caucus.

Rangel joined caucus chairman Rep. Mickey Leland (D-Tex.) at a news conference attacking Reagan's statement Thursday night that he had no plans to change his policy of "quiet diplomacy" in the wake of the latest violence in South Africa.

On Way to Funeral

At least 18 blacks were shot to death Thursday by South African police who opened fire on a crowd going to the funeral of a black activist.

At his news conference, Reagan said that while the deaths were tragic, "There has been increasing violence and there is an element in South Africa that does not want a peaceful settlement, that wants violence in the streets."

He noted the violence came from the law enforcement side, but added that there had been rioting.

"It is tragic, and we hope that this can be corrected," Reagan said. "But I think it also is significant that on the . . . police side . . . it is significant that some of those enforcing the law and using the guns were also black policemen." (Story on Page 14.)

A 'Racist Statement'

Leland said Reagan's comment about black policemen was a "racist statement."

Asked whether he thought Reagan is a racist, Leland replied, "If the shoe fits, wear it."

"I was not proud of my President last night. The President has acted as an apologist for apartheid in South Africa to the extent of trying to rationalize what happened yesterday," Leland said.

The Congressional Black Caucus called on Congress to open hearings about the violence in South Africa and suggested that the Reagan Administration take a hard look at its current policies toward that country.

"I am sick and tired . . . of the selective morality of the Reagan Administration," Leland said, noting the Administration supports "freedom fighters" in Nicaragua, but refuses to reconsider its policy toward South Africa.

In South Africa today, the white-minority government appointed a judicial commission to investigate the slayings.

Opponents of the white-minority government voiced outrage over the shooting deaths. "I am deeply shocked by this tragedy. It would appear that police fired indiscriminately into an unarmed crowd," said Helen Suzman of the white Progressive Federal Party.

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