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S. Africa Police, Protestors Clash

March 19, 1998

VRYBURG, South Africa (AP) _ Police fired tear gas today at about 2,500 black demonstrators marching toward a high school where racial violence has flared in recent weeks.

The residents of Huhudi township, some armed with sticks and axes, retreated at first when police used tear gas but then began to stone police.

``The situation in Vryburg is now totally out of hand,″ Capt. Sam Sesing, the police spokesman, told the South African Press Association.

The demonstrators gathered at the local stadium for the march to demand that Vryburg High School be closed and that the principal resign. The demonstrators also want the school governing body disbanded.

Racial conflict has simmered for years in Vryburg, a small town 180 miles west of Johannesburg that is known as a stronghold for white conservatives.

Last month, police used stun guns as angry students threw gasoline bombs.

White parents recently attacked black students with heavy whips, and black students took administrators hostage.

Trouble flared at the school again Monday when white parents threatened television cameramen and chased them from the school gates. The parents had come to the school to meet with a special committee about the conflict on condition there would be no TV coverage.

Sesing, the police spokesman, said today that it appeared the entire township had mobilized in support of black students who say they no longer feel safe at Vryburg High School.

Police tried to stop the march as it moved toward the township and Vryburg because the demonstrators had not applied for permission to march.

After the clash with police, Sesing said there was no chance of negotiation.

After 1994′s first all-race elections put an end to white-minority rule, schools were required by law to integrate.

But some schools, including Vryburg, resisted the change and found ways to avoid full integration. It set up two separate learning tracks in Afrikaans, spoken mainly by white students, and English, spoken mainly by black students.

The school also increased its annual fees from $164 to $200 over protests by black parents who could not afford the increase.

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