clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:


Nelson Mandela, a freedom fighter who became one of the world's most celebrated political prisoners, arrived in the United States on Wednesday, looking for money and moral support for his battle against apartheid.

Mandela, accompanied by his wife, Winnie, waved to a cheering crowd as he stepped off an airplane at John F. Kennedy International Airport.During a welcoming ceremony, the African National Congress leader called for a continuation of economic sanctions against his homeland and thanked his American supporters.

"The sanctions should be maintained," Mandela said. "We are saying so because sanctions were introduced for the purpose of dismantling apartheid, and are making sure that every South African - black and white - is able to determine his own future."

New York City is the first stop of Mandela's 12-day, eight-city U.S. tour.

He was greeted by his daughter, Zenani; Gov. Mario Cuomo, the Rev. Jesse Jackson; Mayor David Dinkins; entertainer Harry Belafonte, and hundreds of supporters and well-wishers.

Mandela and his wife were given scarves in the ANC colors of black, green and gold, which they put around their necks. Mandela left the airport for a stop at a Brooklyn high school and a ticker-tape parade up Broadway.

Mandela is in the midst of a six-week tour of 14 nations in Africa, Europe and North America that began June 6 - one day after he was discharged from a Johannesburg hospital after surgery to remove a cyst from his bladder.

Along with the festivities celebrating the end of Mandela's 27-year imprisonment in South Africa will be meetings with business, religious and political leaders. Mandela, making his first U.S. visit, is scheduled to speak at the United Nations on Friday and meet in Washington on Monday with President Bush.

Speaking Tuesday at a national mayors' meeting in Chicago, Dinkins said Mandela is "a transcendent symbol of freedom, and a solitary person . . . altering world history."

Mandela's release from prison Feb. 11 was part of a program of social reforms by the government of President F.W. de Klerk that included legalizing the ANC and other anti-apartheid groups.

De Klerk also has opened talks with black groups on giving a political voice to the country's 28 million blacks. South Africa's 5 million whites control the government and economy.

On Tuesday, Mandela appealed to students at a Toronto high school to raise funds to help black youths in his South African homeland. He said they get an education "far inferior to whites," and that those who have spoken out "have have been crushed with force" by the white-minority government.

In New York, thousands of police and federal and state agents were enlisted to protect Mandela. He was assigned to ride in what police called the Mandelamobile, a flatbed truck with a bulletproof bubble big enough to hold several people.

During his public appearances, police and federal agents will form a 75-foot security zone around the silver-haired statesman to keep him at a safe distance.

In Washington, police officials refused to give details about the security operation. But a number of jurisdictions will be involved, including U.S. Park Police and police officers who guard the Capitol building where Mandela will address Congress on Tuesday.

Christine Dolan, a spokeswoman for the national Mandela welcoming committee, said the group is leaving all security to the State Department.


(additional information)

Thursday - Harlem motorcade. rally at Harlem State Office Building and meeting with black journalists.

Friday - Address to U.N. General Assembly; fund-raising rally at Yankee Stadium.

(CNN will cover much of Nelson Mandela's U.S. visit live. CBS, NBC and ABC say coverage will be on regular news programs.)