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The Rising Of The Youth
DAY X - the day war in Iraq began - was a day that youth walked out of schools, colleges and universities in their tens of thousands. In most of the strikes and protests school students took the lead - a new generation on the march.
There were so many protests that we cannot possibly report on all of them. The following, however, gives a flavour of the tremendous action that took place against this bloody war.
THE LONDON borough of Waltham Forest has never seen anything like it. At the peak of the protest 3,000 school and sixth form students took over the streets.
It all started at 8.45 when 200 school students from Kelmscott School walked out and marched to the town square. Not long after they were joined by a similar number from Walthamstow Girls School.
Together they marched chanting and shouting from school to school in the borough. Terrified teachers rushed to lock the gates and stop students from joining the march, although a few managed to escape.
We heard later that 400 Year 10 students at Highams Park School couldn't get out so organised a protest in the school at break time. Also students at Connaught School held a sit down protest.
Back at the town square at 12.00 the demo was swollen by students from Leyton and Monoux sixth forms, as well as more school students who hadn't managed to get out in the morning.
The mass of students blocked the road outside the Tube and bus station, chanting and singing. As the demonstration wound its way down Hoe St, it brought the traffic to a halt. Car and bus drivers were sounding their horns continuously, not in frustration at being caught in a jam but in support of the students who were taking a stand against the war.
ISR/Youth Against the War spent weeks leafleting for the strike. On the day so many wanted to join ISR/Youth Against the War, that we couldn't keep up. Damian, who joined ISR and the Socialist Party on the day, summed up the feeling of many of the students on the march: "This war is wrong. Bush and Blair knew that a majority were against war but still they went ahead. It's their war not ours.
"The strike has given the youth of Waltham Forest a chance to voice their opinion on the war".
STUDENTS FROM four schools in Lewisham (Sydenham Girls, Catford Girls, Forest Hill Boys and Sedgehill) were noisy but peaceful in their protests against the war. Relations with the police were amicable as they had been all morning.
After the rally some students decided to head back to school but most of the group were determined to continue their protest outside Parliament. We all boarded the 185 bus and were about to leave when five police got on. They started to intimidate the students, taking their names, phone numbers, parents' names, dates of births and even parents' dates of birth!
Another dozen police arrived and prevented the students from leaving the bus and refused to say what was going on. Then, without any explanation, they grabbed one of the students and tried to drag her off the bus.
She bravely resisted and was protected by two ISR members. ISR, who were helping the students to organise the protests, told the police at this point that we would go back to school with the students as it was clear that we were never going to get to Parliament. The police shouted that we were lying and attacked one of our members.
They hit him and dragged him off the bus and handcuffed him. They arrested him as well as five others including a 15 year old school student who they also brutally attacked.
The students were kept on the bus for nearly an hour and were then manhandled into police vans to be taken back to school. They were referred to as prisoners by the police, which shows how threatened the powers-that-be feel by the politicisation of young people.
The police tried to claim that school students only want a day off school and don't know anything about the war. This is absolute rubbish. School students in Lewisham are discussing plans for school student unions and planning for further action, despite the threats and intimidation from school management and the police.
THOUSANDS OF school students in Tower Hamlets exploded in anger at the war. At its height, up to 3,000 people took part in the biggest demonstration the borough has seen for many years.
The demo was made up overwhelmingly of school students, led by Stepney Green School. When the fire alarm went off, that signalled the beginning of the walkout.
Around a dozen schools were involved in the protest. At lunchtime hundreds of students and staff at Tower Hamlets College walked out. Council workers walked out to join them, as well as civil servants and local health workers.
Students then marched five miles to join the protests outside Parliament.
UP TO 1,000 students from five local schools and colleges marched through the streets of Hackney on Day X.
In the run-up, ISR/ Youth Against the War members had leafleted schools and colleges calling for protest action, and students themselves set up organising groups in Haggerston, Clapton Girls and Stoke Newington.
Day X itself began with a walkout of 50 students from Homerton Boys School. They turned up at Hackney town hall where, at the initiative of Socialist Party members working for the council, Unison had called a lunch-time protest. These students went with ISR members to join the walkout at Haggerston. Meanwhile anti-war chants echoed in Mare Street as about 300 students marched from Clapton Girls to the protest at Hackney town hall, joining nearly 100 council workers.
After a very lively rally, the students agreed to march to Dalston to meet up with other students. Council workers also joined the march, holding high the Hackney Unison banner.
Graham Road was brought to standstill as the Clapton Girls demo converged with the Stoke Newington, Haggerston and Homerton students going in the opposite direction, throwing the police escorts into chaos.
The demo continued to Dalston and then marched to Liverpool Street station blocking A10 traffic into central London.
A group of up to 200 students than decided to march to Parliament to join the thousands of other students leading the opposition to Bush and Blair's war
ROSA BRANSKY came down with friends from Camden Girls School to Parliament to protest on Day X.
"When we came down it was a really nice atmosphere. It was lovely weather and we sat on the green. Then we got a bit more organised and started sitting in the road and suddenly the police attitude changed.
"It was appalling. I got my wrist twisted and they bruised a ligament in my toes so I can't walk properly. They called me a bitch and a c***.
"It was all obviously designed to put us in our places. I've made an official complaint to the police but it won't stop us demonstrating."
STUDENTS FROM across Southampton came out on strike on Day X, support having spread to new schools since the 7 March strike. The turnout wasn't as high as expected as schools were still stopping students from getting out.
However, where Youth Against the War has become established, students forced schools to back down from threats of expulsion and allow students to strike if they had a note from their parents.
The protest moved off noisily from the town centre to the local FE college. We then moved off to the local HE college to urge students there to support the protest before ending our march at the city council buildings.
In the evening ISR and Socialist Party members took part in a mass protest outside the town hall, blocking traffic for over an hour. Socialist Party members addressed the rally about the need to link the current war on public services in the city to the war on Iraq.
ON 'DAY W', the day before war started, well over 5,000 school, college and university students poured into Victoria Square, Birmingham after a wave of walkouts and strikes across the city.
Many school students were barricaded into schools by teachers but climbed over fences and gates to join the protest against the war. Whole schools were threatened with suspension if they walked out. However, this had little effect.
"WHERE IS the world's thickest Bush?" and "I don't want my dad to come back in a box" were just two of the home-made placards carried by the 1,000 or so demonstrating in Manchester on 19 March. Mostly school-students, the demonstration was swelled throughout as another school or college walked out.
At least a dozen schools and colleges were on strike. In Burnage, dozens of students have already been excluded; but locked gates couldn't stop them when they broke out the back.
After Day X school students also face repression by teachers and management. At one school, 100 school students got suspended, at others school students got expelled. Manchester ISR is now organising a solidarity campaign together with victimised school students from various schools all over Manchester.
THOUSANDS OF lecturers, support staff and students took strike action at Metropolitan University Manchester on Day X to show their opposition to the unjust war. A march of around 200 people was organised and an impromptu rally called behind the town hall. They were joined by hundreds of trade-unionists, workers and school-students. The speeches were relayed to workers in Baghdad via mobile phone.
DESPITE POLICE outside all the schools and police helicopters hovering overhead, 300 took part in a school student and student anti-war rally in Leicester on the day war broke out. The local paper's headline was "don't walk out".
THE DAY X demo in Newcastle was electrifying. There were well over 1,000 students. At one point school students sat down in the road. After a few minutes the police said that if they didn't move, they would start arresting the ringleaders. First one, then another, then all the school students started to shout "I'm a ringleader, I'm a ringleader".
ISR is an international anti-capitalist youth organisation run by and for young people. Youth Against the War is the ISR's main campaign internationally.
We have helped to organise student strikes against the war throughout England and Wales, Northern and Southern Ireland, Belgium, Sweden and Germany as well as helping to build for and organise demonstrations.
We also hold regular meetings on many issues, including the war, in all areas where we have ISR groups. It is extremely important that as well as young people organising action against the war, there are open and democratic meetings for people to take part in.
We have sought to answer Bush and Blair's war propaganda, and show why this is an imperialist war. We're helping to build a campaign of mass civil disobedience, with strike action by workers and youth as the way to stop this war on Iraq. We aim to help build an international opposition to capitalism itself.
Since it was launched in 2001, ISR has built resistance against the actions of capitalist corporations and governments.
Our main campaign is against the war, but we also campaign against racism, sexism and homophobia. We are fighting for a living wage for all young people with full trade union rights, against education cuts and for free education for all, against the destruction of the environment and much more.
To join ISR please contact us on:
020 8558 7947
PO BOX 858, London, E11 1YG
In The Socialist 28 March 2003: