Feminist Gloria Steinem was arrested with two other persons at the South African Embassy here yesterday as part of the continuing demonstrations here and elsewhere against apartheid.

Steinem, publisher of Ms. magazine; Andrew McBride, D.C. commissioner of public health, and the Rev. Rollins Lambert, a member of the U.S. Catholic Conference, were arrested and charged with demonstrating within 500 feet of an embassy, a misdemeanor, D.C. police said.

Shortly before their arrests, the three marched in a peaceful demonstration about 60 yards from the embassy with more than 150 other protestors. Daily protests at the embassy, part of the "Free South Africa" movement organized by the lobbying group TransAfrica, have been occurring since Nov. 21.

Randall Robinson, director of TransAfrica, proclaimed that yesterday was a day of "victories" because a Pittsburgh department store and a Minneapolis bank both stopped selling Krugerrands, the popular South African gold coins. Also, he said, the South African honorary consulate in Boston was closed because of demonstrations and longshoremen in San Francisco voted not to unload South African cargo.

So far, 286 persons have been arrested in demonstrations in cities across the country, including New York, Chicago, Houston and Seattle, Robinson said. "This thing is growing," he said, predicting the number of arrests will increase "dramatically" beginning in January when Congress reconvenes.

But South African Ambassador Bernardus Fourie has said that U.S. demonstrations will have no effect on his government's policies.

Steinem denounced the government of South Africa for denying basic civil and human rights to the 22 million members of the black majority there.

As a feminist, she said, "I am against any caste system" because they usually discriminate against women.

McBride urged an end to apartheid, South Africa's controversial system of segregation, because it has led to poor health conditions among blacks in the country, including a high infant mortality rate.

As the crowd of demonstrators marched in a single file near the embassy at 3051 Massachusetts Ave. NW, some raised placards that urged passing motorists to "Honk for Freedom" and "Stop Apartheid." Dozens honked and raised their fists, but one man yelled "Never!" as he rode past on his motorcycle.