Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/320/9670
Support Karl Debbaut
Defend school students' right to strike
ON FRIDAY 24 October, Karl Debbaut, the international co-ordinator of International Socialist Resistance (ISR), began his trial for his part in protests on Day X, the day war started. He is facing possible imprisonment. The trial has been adjourned until January.
The ISR lobby of the court case at Belmarsh Magistrates Court was well attended.
As Karl explained:
"As far as ISR is aware, I am the only person being threatened with imprisonment as a result of taking part in a school student protest. However, this is not just about me.
"For the crime of making their opposition to the Iraq war heard, many school students suffered disciplinary action in their schools and even police brutality. As part of this campaign ISR intends to launch a national debate on school students' rights."
The day war on Iraq began tens, maybe even hundreds, of thousands of school and college students left their classrooms and took to the streets. They were expressing their outrage and opposition to Blair's determination to continue with the war against Iraq despite the overwhelming opposition of Britain's population.
Faced with the sheer scale of the strikes, and the school students' audacity, in many areas the school authorities, politicians and police had no choice but to let the demonstrations and strikes go ahead unhindered.
Lewisham police, however, took a different approach. They used numbers and force to prevent school students from participating in the Parliament Square protests, instead physically making them return to school. In doing so they arrested Karl. The campaign to defend Karl is not only about his individual case but the right of school students to strike.
After the adjournment, the Committee for a Worker's International reported that the trial went well for Karl with the prosecution forced onto the defensive.
SPONSORS OF the campaign include: Stop the War Coalition, George Galloway MP, Members of the Scottish Parliament for the Scottish Socialist Party: Tommy Sheridan, Frances Curran, Rosemary Byrne, Carolyn Leckie, Rosie Kane.
Mark Serwotka general secretary of the PCS, Janice Godrich PCS president, Sue Bond vice president PCS, Mick Rix general secretary ASLEF, Jeremy Dear general secretary NUJ, PCS NEC members: Sevi Yeslgalli, Chris Baugh, Danny Williamson, Christine Chorlton, Rob Williams. UNISON NEC members: Raph Parkinson, Carol Dutton, Roger Bannister, Clare Williams, Mike Tucker, Jon Rogers, Kate Ahrens, Helen Jenner.
CWU NEC members: Gary Jones, Bernard Roome. Branch secretary London East CWU Paul Stygal, NUT NEC member: Linda Taaffe. TGWU GEC members: Martin Meyer, Chris White, John Boughan. Teresa Mackay Chair of TGWU Rural Agricultural Workers' Section, Brian Revell national organiser TGWU National Agricultural Workers' Section. RMT TUC delegates: Joe Grey, Keith Broddle, Neil Keith, Glenroy Watson, Dawn Elliot, Roy Cartlidge, Martin Wicks. ASLEF TUC delegates: Nigel Gibson, Mike Jones, Dave Tyson.
Socialist Party Councillors: Coventry - Dave Nellist, Rob Windsor, Karen Mackay, Lewisham - Ian Page. Liv Gustavsson Rhodin, Jonas BrŠnnberg, councillors for RŠttvisepartiet Socialisterna, Swedish section of the CWI, in LuleŚ, Sweden.
Arrested - for sticking up posters with tape!
ON 14 October myself and another member of ISR were arrested and held for six hours in a police cell in Chiswick. We were arrested for criminal damage - sticking posters up with tape.
Our arrest was clearly politically motivated and follows the recent trend of arrest and victimisation of anti-war protesters and protesters at the arms fair in East London in September.
We were advertising the launch meeting for a West London ISR group with a meeting entitled "Whose side are the police on?" This referred to how some school students faced police brutality when they came out on strike against the war in Iraq.
To let people know about it we produced posters and taped them up on lamp-posts or over existing posters so the walls would not be damaged. We were surrounded by five or six officers who said they were arresting us for criminal damage.
We told them that temporary notices were not illegal. They wouldn't listen and so we said OK we'll take them down. Instead of demanding that we do this they took us to the police station.
The sergeant seemed completely uninterested until the arresting officer produced our posters. Then everyone told us that there was no such thing as police brutality especially not to school students. But they tried to intimidate us with quite invasive searches and personal questions and held us until 9pm. We're bailed to return on Tuesday 29 October.
This arrest was completely politically motivated. As young people are becoming more and more politically active, the police seem to be doing their best to try and intimidate us.
Incidentally, the ISR meeting, held on Saturday, went very well and ISR members in West London are making plans for a campaign for youth facilities.
In The Socialist 25 October 2003: