February 11, 1970

On this day in 1970, John Lennon paid 1,344 pounds in fines for 96 students who had protested the South African rugby team playing in Scotland.

Lennon’s objection was due to the team symbolizing the apartheid government. In 1970, sports played a major role in the anti-apartheid movement. Any sort of South African team in touring the UK or New Zealand, for example, was met with mass protests.

This particular protest, which later resulted in hundreds of students being arrested, took place in Edinburgh. The punishment in the form of fines were large enough to devastate the student’s unions which had organized the demonstration, until a check which covered the entire amount arrived in the post from John Lennon, along with a note that insisted that there be no publicity attached with the gift.

One of the alleged protesters told his side of the story:

I got arrested with 100 others in Aberdeen after running onto the pitch during a Springboks match in 1969. We all got a night in the cells (and had a ball!) filling them completely. Others arrested after us were bussed down to the beach and dumped so they had to walk back, arriving after the game’s end. We in the cells were charged with breach of the peace, and later were each fined £15 – a lot of money then. One of us who used to work for the NME had the bright idea of phoning them to get John Lennon’s New York phone number, phoned and left a message with his office. A week later a cheque for £1,500 arrived.

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