Several hundred persons celebrated African Liberation Day yesterday by marching from Meridian Hill Park to the South African Embassy in Northwest Washington to protest that country's apartheid government and to voice their support for people under the regime.

Police estimated, however, that 2,000 persons gathered for a rally held after the march, the largest group in recent years to attend the cultural and political commemoration of Africa and its diaspora. The event has been held here yearly by the All-African People's Revolutionary Party (A-APRP) for more than a decade.

The marchers, some wearing dreadlocks and colorful robes, set out from the park, also known as Malcolm X Park, about midday. They marched near the embassy denouncing the South African government during a peaceful five-minute demonstration.

Some in the group carried signs saying "Snatch the FBI and CIA, The Real Terrorists" and calling to "Overthrow the racist regime of South Africa."

Vendors peddling jewelry, clothing and food outside the park at 16th and Euclid streets NW -- part of the tradition -- listened along with the demonstrators as several speakers addressed the issues of apartheid and exploitation of people in South Africa as well as in the United States.

Vernon Bellecourt, a member of the American Indian Movement, recounted how his people were forced from their land and put on reservations that the Indians called their "concentration camps." He said that their plight "exemplifies the future of blacks in South Africa if human liberation is not brought about soon."

The theme of this year's festival, "From Sharpeville and Greensboro to Grenada, Liverpool and Soweto: 25 Years of African Students in Revolt," was a tribute to the thousands of students who have helped lead freedom movements. The significance of students in the efforts was emphasized in a chant heard frequently during yesterday's celebration: "Students make the nation rise; agitate, educate, organize."

South African native Twiggs Xiphu, told the gathering at the park the time has come to "unite in the cause to end apartheid, oppose U.S. imperialism and to fight for liberation until the end."

Deborah Hines, of the District, who attended yesterday's event with her 5-month-old son, Brian, said she has attended the celebration for several years and thinks the A-APRP is "doing a good job of getting people together to discuss these important issues."

District police reported no major disturbances during the rally but said that four men were arrested for possession of drugs. Police said two men were arrested for possession of cocaine, one for the use of marijuana and another on narcotics charges. No additional information was available.