ON 5 March, tens of thousands of students internationally went on strike and took to the streets in protest against the war. Other schools and colleges held protests on 7 March. This action shows the angry anti-war feeling among young people around the world.
Below are reports of some of the strikes International Socialist Resistance (ISR) – Youth Against the War helped to organise. More strike reports from Britain are available on the the International Socialist Resistance website and the Stop the War Coalition website – www.stopwar.org.uk
SCHOOLS IN Leicester were in ferment on 7 March about calls for walk-outs against the war made by International Socialist Resistance (ISR).
Some teachers sympathised with the school students’ cause, even if they felt unable to publicly endorse walkouts. But in one school a cordon of teachers was placed across the front entrance – students just jumped over the back fence en masse!
With feeder marches coming from schools, the city centre rally was meant to start at 2pm. By 1.30pm, hundreds of school students were already waiting.
Our reports suggest that at least 1,000 walked out, from maybe ten schools around the county.
No doubt more supported it but were unable to get out. At least 500 made it to the city centre protests.
Some school students had walked out of schools in Hinckley and Coalville and come on the bus to the rally! The noise was deafening, with constant chants like “We want peace” and “Youth against the war” and cheers every time someone held up a placard, whether home made ones, or ISR or Socialist Party.
Everything on our stall, that the torrential rain hadn’t turned to papier-mache, was snatched up, leaflets, walkout pledge cards, posters.
The event was marred by very heavy handed policing. At 2.30pm the police apparently declared the protest an “unlawful assembly” (half an hour after the official starting time), although the school students didn’t know that.
They then tried to make this noisy, enthusiastic crowd disperse. No way were the students going to end their protest. At this point the police made an arrest, which wasn’t seen by the organisers.
The students from that school, mainly Asian youth, decided spontaneously to march to the police station to get their friend out. The entire protest followed them.
The police tried to block the school students’ way, but the demonstration then just went straight through police lines! All the way up the road police tried to block the demo and failed.
At the police station the police were again heavy-handed, pushing young school students and we had reports of some being hit by police officers (see report right).
The demo then set off again around the city, and then back to the police station! The police then tried to pen all the protesters in. They eventually allowed the school students out one by one having taken everyone’s details and videoed each person.
These tactics were designed to intimidate the young people who’d come only to protest for peace. Blair tells us he wants democracy for the people of Iraq, yet it appears we don’t have much of it here!
The next step is to set up a schools students group to co-ordinate action on Day X (when war starts). But we’re also sending a message to parents as well, why not come down and join us on the demo next time? Follow the lead of the youth.
Defend the arrested students
THERE WERE eight arrests on the Leicester demo. Seven young people were charged, mostly on public order offences although one was charged with assaulting a police officer and possession of an offensive weapon.
We are launching a defence campaign at the ISR meeting on 11 March to fight this provocative and heavy-handed police behaviour.
After the ‘great escape’….
A LIVELY picket line of hundreds of school students at Sydenham girls school started a day of anti-war protest in Lewisham.
Some teachers tried to bully students back in, some even tried to use anti-trade union laws to get the young people to go in to lessons.
The students, who’d leafleted and prepared banners and stickers for the strike, were not to be deterred – they wanted to get their voices heard.
Hundreds marched from Sydenham Girls to Forest Hill Boys school where teachers locked the students in, stopping them from joining the demonstration. Many Forest Hill students broke out the back gate and joined the rally in the local park.
While we were marching, chants of No Blood for Oil and No War brought workers out to support us. We then went to Sedgehill school where yet again students were locked in by the teachers. We had a really bizarre police chase with about 20 of us on a bus and a van load of police following us and stopping at all the stops!
At Christ the King school we’d planned a lunchtime rally but the police were already on the gate. Students who asked the police what they thought of the war were horrified when they said they weren’t allowed to have an opinion!
The next Saturday, 8 March, students from four Lewisham schools and colleges met up to distribute leaflets to young people from other schools and colleges and to tell them about their first strike experiences. Many others have been encouraged to organise for strikes on Day X in their schools.
We also planned what to do next – setting up anti-war committees in the schools, producing a newsletter detailing what students learned from the experience and what organisational improvements we need for the next strike and how to get as many others involved as possible.
IN SHEFFIELD hundreds of students showed their opposition to the war by coming out on strike on 5 March.
Gavin Martin, High Storrs school student
There was a lot of interest about walkouts in many schools across Sheffield including my own school which sent out a letter forbidding anyone to go to the march in town.
Despite this around 40 or 50 people from my school joined others to march the streets of Sheffield in the rain. We went to schools, colleges and the university to join with more young people of Sheffield. Some students who wanted to join the protest were held back by teachers who tried to separate us from their students.
As we marched we received a great deal of support from the public and many people honked their horns or showed other signs of approval. At the peak of the march there were probably up to 1,000 protesters, despite schools condemning the walkout idea.
Many more people would have come if possible. I am sure there will be a massive turnout for any similar protest on ‘Day X’.
SIXTY STUDENTS from Greenhead college and Honley High School in Huddersfield, braved heavy rain on 7 March to protest at Bush and Blair’s war plans.
Greenhead students were in defiant mood – their Principal had tried to stop them protesting. They chanted ‘Greenhead students against the war’ as loudly as possible outside the college gates.
That evening in an interview for Radio Leeds, Anna Whittaker, one of the organisers of the Greenhead students said: ‘”There can be no justification for this war even if the UN back it. This is a war for oil not for the liberation of the Iraqi people.”
These students are now determined to organise bigger and better protests when war breaks out – this is just the beginning!
IN LEEDS, up to 300 students and school students walked out against the war and met up for a really lively protest. A number of ISR members and supporters continued the protests and went on hunger strike in the city centre. This received lots of press coverage.
A MAGNIFICENT walkout by over 300 school students on Tyneside on 5 March led to a march in the centre of Newcastle. School students from Gosforth and Heaton were joined by students from as far away as Hexham, and by university students. By then over 400 strong they marched down Northumberland Street singing and chanting and held a rally at the Monument, gaining support from passers-by.