LSE Occupied… (against apartheid, March 1987)

In March 1987, students occupied the main administration building at the London School of Economics demanding that the College disinvested from (companies profiting from) apartheid South Africa.  Their occupation of Connaught House attempted to pressurize the LSE Court of Governors to withdraw £1.7million of investments from Shell, BTR, BP and Glaxo, all companies with significant business interests in South Africa at the time.

LSE Occupied Against Apartheid, March 1987 (Source: City Group)

The City of London Anti-Apartheid Group put a lot of effort into mobilising students to participate in the Non-Stop Picket of the South African embassy.  During the spring term of 1987, City Group delegates spoke at students union meetings up and down the country, mobilising in particular for the 14 March ‘March for Mandela’ demonstration, but more generally encouraging anti-apartheid activism.  This speaking tour took in dozens of colleges around London, but also took City Group supporters south to Sussex University and north as far as Kilmarnock. 

Although City Group cannot claim responsibility for the LSE Occupation against apartheid, there had clearly been a lot of contact between activists from the Non-Stop Picket and students at the LSE in the lead up to their action.  City Group played an active role in supporting the student occupation.  When the students organised a rally in support of their occupation, City Group shared the platform with Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott, Richard Balfe MEP (themselves all sponsors of the Non-Stop Picket) and a representative from SWAPO.

Ultimately the students’ occupation was defeated when the LSE secured a repossession order in the courts.  Both Norma and David Kitson spoke at the picket of the court hearing organised by the students.  When, after seven days in occupation, the students decided to vacate Connaught House of their own volition rather than resist eviction, 400 students marched spontaneously to the Non-Stop Picket of the South African embassy at the other end of The Strand.  While the close geographical proximity of the Picket to the LSE undoubtedly influenced the students’ decision to march there, this also suggests that for those interested in taking radical action against British links with apartheid, the Non-Stop Picket was a key focal point.

About Gavin Brown

Professor of Political Geography and Sexualities University of Leicester
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