Today, South Africa commemorates the Soweto uprising of June 16th, 1976. On that day, thousands of school children rallied in Soweto (a township outside of Johannesburg), in protest of the apartheid government's imposition of Afrikaans as the language of instruction in their schools. The protest was intended to be peaceful, and was supported by the teachers in Soweto. However, police had barricaded the road upon which the students were marching. The crowd by this point had gathered to somewhere between 3 and 10 thousand students. A shot was fired, and chaos broke out. Police open fired into the crowd, killing scores of children. It is estimated between 200 and 600 people died, with thousands injured.
Many state the Soweto uprising as the 'beginning of the end' of apartheid. The event attracted international attention, with the photograph above of Hector Pieterson's dead body becoming the icon of the tragedy.
Today the country remembers those who were killed, but also those who stood up in the face of violence and joined together against injustice. I am reminded today of the power that we all have to effect change.
If you are interested, Cry Freedom and A Dry White Season are both fantastic movies that depict the riots.