June 16 marks the commemoration of National Youth Day in South Africa. This is the day the country reflects on the massacre of school children during the Soweto Uprising of 1976, when they peacefully protested the Apartheid regime's law forcing Black children to study in the medium of Afrikaans, the language of the oppressor.
200 died in riots sparked by the white Afrikaner police shooting children who were peacefully marching.
The Soweto uprising spread across the country forever changing the South African trajectory, drawing international attention and ultimately 14 years later culminating in International sanctions, and then the release of Nelson Mandela paving the way for South Africa’s new democracy and a Constitution ensuring 100% equal to all, including LGBTQI people.
On 16 June 1976 about 10 000 students mobilized intending a peaceful march was meant to lead to a rally in Orlando Stadium. As they marched, in song and dance, a traditional form of South African protest, they were met by heavily armed white police who fired teargas and live ammunition at the students.
The aftermath had dire consequences for the Apartheid government. Images of the police firing on peacefully demonstrating students led an international clampdown against South Africa as this brutality was exposed. Meanwhile, the weakened and exiled liberation movements received new recruits fleeing political persecution at home giving impetus to the struggle against Apartheid.
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