Dozens of national civil rights and political leaders and several well-known actors and authors, including Paul Newman and Arthur Miller, will join in a symbolic funeral procession to the State Department tomorrow on behalf of those who have died in South Africa during escalating political and racial unrest there.
The procession, its members carrying 50 caskets, is being staged here to commemorate South Africans who have died since the white-ruled government declared a state of emergency three weeks ago.
The marchers, however, will also be protesting the U.S. government's refusal to take sterner measures against South Africa's system of apartheid, or racial separation.
New York Mayor Edward Koch, Chicago Mayor Harold Washington, New Orleans Mayor Ernest Morial, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry and Richard Hatcher, mayor of Gary, Ind., are among the political figures who have agreed to participate in the march.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson, Coretta Scott King, NAACP Director Benjamin Hooks, writer Harrison Salisbury and feminists Judy Goldsmith and Betty Friedan are also expected to join the procession.
In addition to actor Newman and playwright Miller, the artist and celebrity contingent in the march is to include Harry Belafonte, Tony Randall and William Styron.
Highlighting what organizers are calling a National Day of Mourning for Black People of South Africa, the march will start at the Washington Monument at noon and proceed along Constitution Avenue and up 22nd Street to the State Department's diplomatic entrance on C Street NW.
The event is being organized by the Free South Africa Movement, the group that has organized anti- apartheid demonstrations at the South African Embassy every weekday afternoon since Nov. 21.
At the State Department, according to a statement released by march organizers, the caskets will be "deposited" and "major religious leaders will acknowledge the boundless sacrifice of black South Africans in their struggle for freedom and democracy."
The funeral ceremony will be conducted by Episcopal Bishop John Walker, Rabbi Andrew Baker, Imam Sultan Muhammad and the Rev. Robert Drinan, a Roman Catholic priest and former congressman.
Funeral processions through the streets have been banned in black townships under South Africa's recent state of emergency declaration, and the march here is intended as a substitute protest.
Organizers have declined to estimate the number of marchers, but the permit application they filed with D.C. police indicates that at least 1,000 participants are expected.
District government employes, 4,000 of whom held their own protest at the embassy in April, are being encouraged to join the procession during their lunch break, according to a spokeswoman for Barry.