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APARTHEID OPPONENTS `FREE THE BEACHES’ WITH PICNICS, PRAYERS

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Hundreds of black and mixed-race people declared the end of apartheid on two whites-only beaches Saturday by picnicking, swimming, singing and praying under the watchful eye of the police.

Protesters at the Strand, a conservative seaside town 20 miles east of Cape Town, made "sure they had staked their claim properly. They walked around and wet their feet in God's water," said Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu.Wearing a yellow sun-hat with the slogan "Free the Beaches," and a T-shirt saying, "Just Call me Arch," the 56-year-old Tutu jogged on the beach. He then held a prayer service after persuading police not to use force on the crowd, which ignored police orders over loudspeakers to disperse.

Organizers had refused to seek permission to hold the demonstration.

Some families left after the police removed foreign television crews and local photographers. But most stayed, opening their picnic lunches, swimming and wadg in the water as the crowd grew to 1,500.

About 100 whites watched from the roadside, many criticizing the protest as they talked among themselves.

Police took no action. Many officers even began smiling and waving as they left when the crowds thinned in the afternoon.

"I hope that the inhabitants of the Strand will realize that we have liberated them," Tutu told a news conference later. "They don't have to watch whether black people are walking on their beaches any longer. They will enjoy the liberation of being able to share."

Another 1,000 people gathered in the eastern Cape province city of Port Elizabeth, where former Mayor Graham Richards erected a homemade sign declaring Pollock Beach, reserved for whites for 35 years, was open to all.

The City Council has tried to end beach segregation, but the princial administrator, appointed by the governing National Party, has refused.

The wood sign resembled nearby municipal signs declaring the beach is for the use of whites only. The new sign said, "We the people of Port Elizabeth hereby declare Pollock Beach open for the use of all people."

Seven buses brought black people from townships 10 miles north of Port Elizabeth.