As D.C. police once again politely returned the mock caskets and grave markers used by protesters in front of the South African Embassy yesterday, as the same famous people were arrested and hauled away in a police wagon, as the chants subsided and the crowds dispersed, a nagging question remained: Where do we go from here?

It was the 10th anniversary of the Soweto uprising, but in Washington it could have been any day since November 1984, when the South African Embassy became a target for antiapartheid demonstrations.

But what kind of protest is this when people can take a lunch hour and go face a police line where the man in charge, Deputy Police Chief Isaac Fulwood, says things like, "The South African police are crazy, damn crazy," then takes time to make sure that demonstrators understand the law and understand that they will not be prosecuted for breaking the law.

Meanwhile, the South African Embassy sits unscathed, an impenetrable bastille representing one of the most repressive governments in the world. Not so much as red paint soils its walls, let alone blood. No one dares toss a brick.

The Pentagon should have been so lucky as to have such peaceful protesters during the 1960s.

The situation now calls for more than handcuffing oneself to a metal railing leading up to the steps of the South African Embassy, as several did yesterday. The situation looked like it might get tense, especially when D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy raised his hand as if to ward off approaching police officers.

But the police were his friends, and, besides, they were carrying wire cutters. It took only a moment for them to carry him away.

With all due respect to Fauntroy, Randall Robinson, Mary Berry, Bill Lucy and others, they have done enough of this kind of thing. They have shown courage in bringing the situation in South Africa to the attention of hundreds of thousands of people across the United States.

But these days, going to a police holding cell for 30 minutes doesn't even match a Mitch Snyder hunger strike. Already, there is a fellow out of Delaware, Stas Kaczorowski of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who has been on a hunger strike for 50 days protesting medical research on animals.

His spokeswoman says of him, "He is prepared to die." For monkeys, no less.

Unless the Free South Africa movement is prepared to bring in some Berrigan brother types, they should call it a day for the streets.

The fact of the matter is that America, in the eyes of black South Africans, is the country that is keeping apartheid in place. Thus, President Reagan should be targeted -- and done so in a manner that reflects a political sophistication that goes far beyond marching in the street.

Mary Berry told the crowd of about 600 yesterday that she was sick and tired of South African President Pieter W. Botha, sick and tired of Reagan and "sick and tired of being sick and tired."

We cannot afford to have people like Berry get burned out at such a critical juncture, although the reasons for her sentiments are clear. Having been arrested as many times as anyone, she has watched as the situation in South Africa has only worsened.

The Free South Africa Movement, having created awareness, must now shift its focus to finding political solutions. What can those thousands of people who have already been arrested do now to help to ban investment in South Africa, ban South African flights to the United States, ban the sale of computers to South Africa and free Nelson Mandela.

It is time for a change in what has been a war of words hurled at the embassy from the street. If Fauntroy wants to send a message to Botha, he could do better than stand in front of microphones on Massachusetts Avenue.

With antiapartheid legislation scheduled for debate in Congress next week, Fauntroy should be telling his constituents what they can do to help get it passed. The battleground in South Africa may be the streets, but in Washington, the fight is on Capitol Hill.