A dozen apartheid protesters who couldn't get their day in court here Monday tried to escalate their protest against South Africa today -- and found they couldn't even get arrested.
Returning to the downtown offices of Deak-Perera Inc., an international money exchange firm that sells South African krugerrands, the demonstrators were again foiled in their attempts to provoke arrests that might lead to the nation's first apartheid protest trial.
Not that the group didn't try. In the seven hours the protesters occupied the firm's lobby, they sang songs, hurled chants at customers, blocked the main entrance, jostled patrons, had lunch brought in and jammed a revolving door with a soda can.
"This is the first time I've ever had to beg to be arrested -- I mean we're doing everything we can think of," said Domenic M. Bozzotto, president of a local union for hotel and restaurant workers and one of the 12 demonstrators.
Charges of criminal trespassing against the 12 stemming from earlier Deak-Perera protests were dropped on Monday after Boston's district attorney declined to prosecute the case.
They went back to Deak-Perera today hoping to force new arrests but found that the firm had decided to ignore them.
With police looking on, the firm's customers had to run a gauntlet of about 70 pickets who were shouting "shame" and "bloodsucker" just to get inside the office, where they were met with more chants.
Most customers reacted angrily to the confrontation, though a few signed a petition urging a ban on the sale of krugerrands, the top-selling gold coin and South Africa's largest export item. But except for a self-styled Polish freedom fighter, whom police led away when he started yelling racist epithets at the demonstrators, there were no arrests.
"The police have told us that no matter what we do, they're not going to arrest us," said Geraldine Hines, attorney for the protesters.
Police said the protesters hadn't done anything to merit arrest, and Deak-Perera officials in Boston declined comment.
Still, the firm seemed to be taking the same no-arrest stance it used when demonstrators staged a similar protest at one of its offices in Washington earlier this month.
The Boston protesters had indicated they were prepared to stay all night to force the arrest issue but left shortly after 5 p.m. when the office closed and it was clear police did not plan to evict them.
Organizers said protesters would "almost certainly" return to the offices Wednesday and that the Free South Africa Movement, whose protests have resulted in more than 1,700 arrests nationwide, would begin targeting other Deak-Perera branches until the firm suspends the sale of krugerrands and agrees to meet with protest leaders.
Leslie Deak, the firm's president, said such a meeting will not take place until the protests at its offices cease.
Dubbed the "Anti-Apartheid 12" by their supporters, the Boston president of a local union for hotel and restaurant workers protesters are part of a larger group of 42 persons who have been arrested here during demonstrations.
The protesters targeted Deak-Perera after earlier protests led to the resignation of an American lawyer who had been serving as South Africa's honorary consul in Boston.
The purchase of krugerrands is the most direct way in which U.S. citizens support apartheid, according to the protesters.
The dismissal of charges against the Deak-Perera demonstrators transformed a planned support rally Monday night into a victory celebration.
Before supporters that included singer Harry Belafonte and United Farm Workers President Cesar Chavez, Dr. Willard J. Johnson, one of the group of 12 and the president of the TransAfrica Boston Support Group, promised that the protests and the arrests will continue.
Belafonte, a founder of Artists and Athletes Against Apartheid, said he has been banned from South Africa for his activism.
"I accept that as a medal of honor," he said.