The actions of schoolkids in March 2003 throughout the world were perhaps the most interesting aspect of the opposition to the Iraqi war.
Undoubtedly they failed to stop the war, surprise, surprise. They fizzled out as it became obvious that the war would just go on despite what was done in the streets. But their real failure is that though they were based in daily life – the refusal of school in a situation where they knew that kids in another part of the world were going to be killed – they didn’t go on to consciously develop an ongoing opposition to education in this society, which would have extended the movement into something beyond just the war.
Here we have 4 sections on this movement:
1. A list of various actions, mainly by schoolkids against the war. We do not necessarily agree with everything said here, and in fact it’s a fairly ecelectic collection – but it gives some idea of the enormity of this movement. This list is not meant to be definitive – probably some things are missed out.
2. An interview with a London schookid at the time of the war.
3. A personal account of someone’s experience in London, the day the war broke out.
4. A leaflet given out to various schoolkids in London at the start of the war.
ACTIONS AT THE START OF THE WAR
CENTRAL LONDON DEMONSTRATION
Throughout the day several thousand school and university students together with trade unionists and others demonstrated in Parliament Square in Whitehall. All streets and roads around Westminster and Whitehall were blocked throughout the day. Westminster Bridge was closed.
65 teachers at Copland School in Wembley walked out for the last lesson
NUT at Arthur Terry school
NATFHE at Preston FE and Pendal FE colleges
NUT at Beeston Comprehensive
NATFHE and AUT at Bristol City FE college
NUT at Neston High School, Wallesley High School
NUT at Forest Hill School & Sydnham school, St. Paul’s Way School
NUT at Ducie High School/Oakwood
Up to a thousand school kids were holding a demonstration inside school grounds in St Dunstan’s School Glastonbury – supported by the school authorities who even called the local media to come and film the event.
At least 100 students at St Boniface School in Plymouth face being suspended after a protest on the Hoe and in the city centre.
Up to 200 pupils at Helena Romanes School and Sixth Form Centre in Dunmow, Essex, staged a peaceful protest outside the school gates this morning
Pupils from Priory High School in Exeter, who joined a demonstration in the city centre said they had been given permission to take part by their parents.
School students from Parrs Wood school in Didsbury, Manchester joined the student march
Glebelands School, Cranleigh, Surrey
Broadlands School, Keynsham, Bristol
QEHS School, Hexham, Northumberland
Hundreds of schoolkids walked out from Priory, West Exeter, St Peter’s school and others
500 kids walked out of lessons from Clyst Vale school, Devon and held a protest meeting outside that went on all day
Queen Elizabeth Community Comprehensive Upper School, Crediton, Devon
Tiverton, Devon 200 schoolkids walked out from Ivybridge school, Devon and marched through the town
20 pupils at Cape Cornwall School in St Just, near Penzance, were suspended after joining a march on Wednesday.
Kingsmead School, Wiveliscombe, Somerset
Broadlands School, Keynsham, Bristol
126 students at Hazelwick School, Crawley
300 school students at Helena Ramanha school, Great Dunlow, Essex
200 students at Farnborough FE college are occupying the canteen
Thomas Hardye School, Dorchester (despite threats from school board)
Mearns Castle High School, Glasgow walk out by 250 third year pupils against war in Iraq. Tried to converge on Eastwood council but were stopped.
Eskdale Middle School and Whitby Community College walking out at 3. 30pm.
Around 60 school student walked out of Anderson High School, Lerwick, today,
20 March 2003 at 12 noon to protest against war in Iraq. The students marched to the town centre, and from there to the harbour where they picketed a Royal Navy minesweeper.
Pupils at Shenley Brook End School staged their own spontaneous protest after morning break at 11 o’clock. Instead of going back to lessons pupils assembled in the “Street“ (as the school’s common area is called) where they remained for 10 minutes until the protest was broken up by teachers.
Pupils at Limavady in Northern Ireland walked out of lessons
Students from at least three schools in Bedford who had staged a walkout to synchronise with the demo
Brynteg School, Bridgend held a successful demonstration, leaving lessions to march around the town.
80 students plus a dozen teachers from two local comprehensives and a college staged a march around Abingdon town centre
350 school and sixth form kids sat outside the front of their school in a quite leafy suburb in surrey. School children walk out of their classes and stop traffic in City Centre and Tyne Bridge in the morning.
Pupils from Oathall Community College, Haywards Heath, West Sussex blocked the A272. Students at three other local schools were locked in by staff.
Dozens of students in Wigan walked out, sparked by one student’s stand.
200 schoolkids walked out of Caldew school Dalston at morning break, taking police by surprise. More than 500 ie about half the school – walked out of William Howard, Brampton, into town and held a minute’s silence. Both were totally self-organised.
Students at John Barrow School, Barrow were forced to climb an 8 ft fence to get out of their school after the headmaster locked them in. They occupied the town hall and handcuffed themselves to the gates.
100-150 students from Clifton school demonstrated against the war in Rotherham town centre in the evening
200 school-students walked out of classes in York and occupied a roundabout in the centre.
30 students in Swindon walked out to join the march
300 12-15 year olds left 3 schools in Edinburgh and were blocked from reaching the American Consulate by police after attempting to occupy Edinburgh Castle.
Cardinal Newman School in Preston saw a walk-out
Pupils from Our Ladies and Girls’ Grammar Schools Lancaster joined protests
Students in Plymouth walked out despite staff changing break times and locking doors to attempt to stop students joining protests.
Around 200 11-to-16 year olds from the Caldew School in Dalston marched into the centre of the village chanting anti-war slogans.
Christ’s College 6th Form – Finchley.
200 at Acland Burley School, Tufnell Park.
200 from Stepney School, Mile End.
Hundreds of staff and students at Tower Hamlets College marched to Mile End.
Walthamstow Central is blocked – walk outs by Kelmscott school,
Walthamstow School for Girls and 2 6th form colleges. Over 400 school kids in Walthamstow blocked traffic.
400 students out at Fortismere School, Muswell Hill, marched up Broadway and blocked traffic up to Highgate Tube. Also students from Alexandra Park school walked out.
Police were called to pen students in at Charles Edward Brook school in Lambeth after they started shouting anti-war slogans.
Pupils of Villiers High School in Southall, London organised protest and walked out of school. Up to 300 pupils took part and as a result many have been suspended.
Staff and students from schools in North East London – Northumberland Park, Gladesmore and William C. Harvey walked out.
The North London 6th forms William Ellis, Parliament Hill, Acland Burghley and La sainte union marched to Parliament.
Gunnersbury Catholic School in West London saw a spontaneous protest by 200 pupils, 50 of whom joined the protest at Parliament Square.
In Nottinghamshire, more than 100 pupils walked out of lessons at West Bridgford School to stage a demonstration on a nearby playing field.
Swansea – Cwmtawe Comprehensive School, Pontardawe.
Newtown High School 1/2 hour protest – children have been threatened with two week suspension if they join the protest.
Llanidloes High School, walk out in face of opposition by senior staff.
Around 100 pupils walked out of Llandrindod Wells High School, In Powys, Wales and held a rally at the war memorial.
Mass walkouts in Gowerton, Llanelli and Bridgend each involved a hundred or more students.
12-15 Llanelli students were arrested.
In Olcfha school the gates were firmly shut in an attempt to stop a repeat of Wednesdays action. Instead the school students held a sit in and refused to attend lessons.
Queen Mary and Westfield, Uni of London, Tower Hamlets, protest at Mile End, Stepney
Salford University, Manchester – The Crescent blocked twice
At Manchester Metropolitan University, 80 staff and 150 students rallied and marched to Albert Square. 100s of students from Manchester Uni have walked out of lectures and blocked traffic on Oxford Road, a busy main road out of
Manchester AUT and UNISON at Manchester University walked out at 1pm to join the student rally.
Essex Uni students binned Daily Mail and Sun copies in the campus shop.
Students are striking today.
At Stirling university about 1, 500 staff/students walked out of lectures, then 500 marched to Stirling centre.
North West London College sites at Willesden, Wembley, Kilburn, classes closed, staff walked out to a protest given paid time off, more than 1000 staff and students at Willesden, most walked out to Westminster
London Met Uni and City & Islington College walk-out in Highbury and Holloway Road, several hundred marched to Islington Town Hall.
Students in Oxford are planning to occupy the town centre.
Students at Keele Uni blocked the main entrance to the campus as lecturers arrived for work, before being dispersed by campus security. Students and staff later staged a protest today in which they went to their cars at midday and blew their car honrs for five minutes.
Cambridge University students have blocked the traffic along with 400 people at the war memorial, and 50 students have occupied the army recruitment centre.
600 students walked out of Westminster Kingsway College to join central London protests.
Students including the Welfare Officer of Lampeter Uni, Wales joined a protest in the town centre.
More than 400 staff and students demonstrated outside the College of North East London against the war on Iraq.
Anti War University students at Swansea Uni invaded large lectures on Thursday morning and asked for a vote on the war before asking people to walk out and join them. They found in every lecture at least two thirds were against the war.
Staff and students at Bradford Coillege walked out at midday yesterday to join protests at the outbreak of war. Around 25 lecturers in Natfhe and a hundred students marched from college sites into Bradford’s Centenary square.
Lecturers at Swansea University spent the morning leafleting against the war.
Lecturers in Neath College held a rally outside the college gates.
Barnsley College NATFHE members held a dinnertime protest rally.
At the University of Gloucestershire in Cheltenham up to 100 NATFHE members and students walked out of lectures at 12 Noon, including a group of students who had been given the go-ahead by their Women’s Studies lecturer and another lecturer led two-thirds of her Social Work students out.
Protest were also held by:
NATFHE at Handsworth College and East Birmingham College.
AUT at Exeter University.
NATFHE at Leeds Metropolitan Uni.
Fircroft College of Adult Education, NATFHE.
AUT, Bristol University lunchtime walk-out.
NATFHE, UNISON, Bristol University, University of the West of England.
UNISON Leicester uni.
Liverpool UNISON, AUT John Moore Uni.
AUT at Liverpool University.
NATFHE at Sheffield Uni, Sheffield Hallam.
NATFHE at Greenfield College & Goldsmith’s, Tower Hamlet’s College, Guildhall, UEL, East Ham College.
SOAS and UCL lecturers (AUT).
NATFHE at Southwark College.
JUST SOME OF THE TOWN CENTRE PROTESTS
Altogether around 500 assembled in Albert square in Manchester at lunchtime. 2000 people including uni students, school students, council workers and lecturers marched round Manchester city centre, closing major road junctions. A rally took place in Manchester’s Picadilly Gardens, drawing over 5, 000 people.
“School kids in Bristol demonstrated that they’re more sussed than the liberals and Vicars leading the Stop The War Coalition when they staged a number of wildcat anti-war strikes.
200 pupils at St.Katherine’s school at Pill, walked out of lessons and gathered on the school field for three hours to protest the attack on Iraq. They also blocked traffic on the road outside the school till police were called. Another 300 students, mainly from Cotham school, also took strike action and protested in the City Centre – no disciplinary action was
taken. Pupils from St. Mary Redcliffe were only stopped from staging their own strike by teachers rushing to lock the school gates when they realised people were about to walk out – nevertheless a number of committed pupils ignored these rule-following idiots and clambered over the fences – one breaking his ankle in the process – at least he’s got something to show when people ask what he did to try and stop the war. Two local people have been locked up for an act of direct action, in which they disabled thirty vehicles which provide essential support to the US B52 bombers at Fairford Airbase. The usual round of anti-war graffiti and pacifist peace vigils have also taken place – but the spontaneous and inspiring actions of school students, unencumbered by party positions, surely points out the way to go if we wish to stop the war machine in its tracks.”
“In London, smaller local protests starting with school walk-outs in the morning converge into Parliament Square around noon and remain centred around that area into the evening. Schoolkids in a sit-down protest are punched or thrown aside in an attempt by cops to clear the streets – but some of these teenagers prove to be the most valiant in resisting the police. Later on, as the square fills with several thousand protesters, graffiti, and bonfires, breakaway marches head towards Victoria but are pushed back, and others block Westminster bridge. The square is surrounded by police.”
“The first day of war in Iraq saw some of the largest and most militant activity that Newcastle has experienced in recent times. Events began at 8 am at the Haymarket. At 8.20 the crowd of 80-odd that had gathered moved into the road and blocked traffic for three quarters of an hour. Eventually, the crowd moved on. Some went to work but the schoolkids present weren’t finished yet. They marched to the Monument and spent half an hour chalking anti-war slogans all over the area. Then they got off and made straight for the Tyne Bridge. Stopping traffic on the Tyne bridge was child’s play. No coppers showed for ages. The group then marched back into Newcastle, this time accompanied by police vans the whole way. At lunchtime, it met up with the 1,000 strong main march and again stopped traffic at the Haymarket. A large group hung about until the end and then marched up to the Haymarket and again stopped traffic by sitting in the road. Then they tried to march onto the main road north out of Newcastle but were stopped by large numbers of police vans. They turned round and tried to march the other way, moving towards the civic centre but again were corralled by the cops. So, the crowd ran over the park by the church and sat in the road back where they’d just been; the cops didn’t have a clue what to do.
The Socialist Workers Party regional organiser then announced that the demo was over and everyone should go to the next one. After, some argued that loud hailers should not be allowed on marches. But it’s not really the loud hailers, but the fuckers using them. The way in which such a high level of solidarity, spontaneity and militancy was effectively killed by people who were meant to be supporters of the cause was nothing short of a disgrace. It remains to be seen whether the experiences of that night will encourage people to hold their nerve in the future or whether the shiteness in which it ended will put people off doing similar things again. It didn’t need to end that way, and we need to find ways of combating those who elect themselves to sell us out. Hopefully, the kids, who were the main inspiration of the days’ events, will learn to deal with this in the future, and won’t be put off by it.”
KIDS AGAINST THE WAR
School kids across the UK walked out of lessons to stage demonstrations against the start of the war with Iraq starting on Thursday March 20th. Hundreds joined crowds protesting at Westminster. School kids have been played a big part in many demonstrations across the UK while others have staged their own protests at their schools.In Carlisle, the police were called to a school after hundreds of pupils staged an anti-war demonstration. Around 200 11-to-16 year olds from the Caldew School in Dalston marched into the centre of the village chanting anti-war slogans. A demonstration in Edinburgh caused extensive disruption in the city centre. The demonstrators were mainly school-age youngsters who gathered near the Scottish Parliament and then split in to smaller groups which stopped traffic. Stirling University was closed due to protest action.
There were two separate demonstrations in Belfast with more than 1,000 students and schoolchildren mounting a sit-down protest, blocking the road outside Queen’s University.
In Nottinghamshire, more than 100 pupils walked out of lessons at West Bridgford School to stage a demonstration on a nearby playing field.
In Manchester, about 200 school students joined a big demonstration.
In Sheffield, two schoolchildren were arrested by police for alleged criminal damage during a demonstration.
They occupied Lancaster town hall, shut down the centre of Leamington Spa and took to the streets of Northern Ireland. Meanwhile a Manchester head teacher took up police tactics to intimidate pupils who protest against the war.
In Bristol, the centre of the city was gridlocked as thousands joined protesting students in blocking roads. Crowds pushed through police lines and the M32 was blockaded.
In Edinburgh, demos and student strikes started on the Monday before the war broke out. Protesters stormed the castle and Princes Street several times. Up to a thousand school kids were holding a demonstration inside school grounds in Glastonbury – supported by the school authorities who even called the local media to come and film the event.
Students rallied on campus in Keele, and in Leeds council workers joined students for a day of protest, and further actions took place in Aberdeen, Barnsley, while in Cardiff evening protests brought the city to a standstill, which were later attacked by police.
Around 200 school students staged a walk-out at George Stephenson school, Killingworth, near Newcastle. The students walked out at dinner time after the headteacher sent out a letter banning younger students from going outside school for their lunch. They made placards and marched out, to be confronted by mounted police.
Near the City of London, kids blocked a road, whilst over 400 schoolkids in Walthamstow were blocking traffic and causing mayhem; demos of mainly schoolkids all over the place. In Edinburgh, they stopped the city centre. In Lewisham, schoolkids had a walkout to demonstrate at the town hall. When many of them took a bus to join the protests in Central London they were violently stopped by the police. Most were forced to go back to school but some were detained.
From: Mike Marqusee site, May 2003:
On the morning following the launch of the US-UK war on Iraq, the headline in Dawn, the leading English language daily in Pakistan, proclaimed: “World condemns invasion, fears for civilians”. The story underneath itemised the protests lodged by the vast majority of the planet’s governments and the street demonstrations that greeted the outbreak of war in every continent. You could find similar headlines in newspapers everywhere – except in Britain and the USA.
As the war in Iraq has unfolded, the British media have focussed on the battle front, and largely ignored the parallel story of sustained and unprecedented global protest. In doing so, they’re misleading us about the real impact and consequences of the war.
Of course, for huge numbers in Asia and Africa, the war is an attack on Muslims and their outrage stems from their Muslim commitments. In the Arab world, the war has spurred a revival of long-dormant Arab nationalism – precisely the phenomenon most feared by the US oil elite. But the world-wide anger reaches far beyond Muslim or Arab ties. From Moscow to Seoul, Johannesburg to Buenos Aires, popular indignation with the US-British invasion has found expression in countless marches and rallies.
From the first day of the war up to the present moment, protests involving hundreds of thousand have been staged regularly in Germany, Italy and Spain. In Barcelona, every evening at 9pm, thousands open their windows and beat on saucepans to voice their protest. In Greece a general strike shut down banks, stores and government services. 15,000 marched to the US consulate in the northern port city of Thessaloniki. Cyprus was brought to a standstill by a 30 minute work stoppage – even the stock exchange was closed. Although Poland is one of the very few countries to have supplied even a token number of troops to the US-British operation, an opinion poll has showed that 69% of Poles are against the war. Dissident MPs brought anti-war banners into the Polish parliament (precipitating a scuffle with government officials). Students in Sarajevo, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, hurled eggs and red paint at the US embassy. Some protesters carried posters with a picture of Bush and the text: “Wanted – dead or alive. Preferably dead. Reward – peace.’”
It’s striking that so many protests have taken place in societies that might seem both remote from the conflict and preoccupied with their own pressing and desperate problems. But everywhere this war is perceived as a global question. Not surprisingly, the spectacle of an unchecked superpower imposing its will by force where and when it pleases makes people uneasy. In that large section of the world blighted by poverty and repression, many feel that their hopes for democracy and economic development depend on a peaceful and equitable world economic order and, with reason, do not believe that such an order can be built under the dictatorship of the USA. What they see in the war on Iraq is a contempt for their own right to determine their destinies and a disregard for the value of non-US, non-British human life.
Only two African governments can be found among the “coalition of the willing” – Eritrea and Ethiopia, both competing for US assistance. In Accra there have been demonstrations protesting the cautious ambivalence of the Ghanaian regime. Tens of thousands have opposed the war in the streets of all the major South African cities. Kenya – itself a victim of terrorist atrocities – has opposed the invasion. Hundreds of young people marched in the coastal town of Mombasa carrying placards and banners denouncing Bush and Blair. In Niger and Nigeria, there have been protests outside UIS and British embassies. In Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, there was a blanket ten minute work stoppage in solidarity with Iraq.
There have been huge and angry protests in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand. 80,000 marched in Bangkok. In Pattani, an estimated 30,000 people prayed in the streets. “I think what Bush is doing is equal to Satan’s work. Why can’t he find a better way to stop a problem?” said Waetalee Waebuyi, a 21-year-old Thai student.
The war has highlighted how intertwined our destinies have become. In Kerala, in south west India, many communities are dependent on remittances from relatives working in the Gulf. Local fishermen have launched a boat named Iraq on “a voyage of peace” across the state’s intricate network of palm-fringed waterways. The vessel carries a banner reading: “Every bush will be ploughed some day.” “The war affects us immensely and we want to protest against it in a unique way so that people take note of it,” said one of the organisers. Across the state, expatriates who have returned to their villages after years of working in the Gulf have set up “anti-war corners” where artists display anti-war messages. These messages have been echoed in demonstrations of hundreds of thousands in Calcutta and Delhi.
The war has won support from only four of the 21 South and Central American governments. In Ecuador, 1,000 people massed outside the US embassy chanting “peace, yes – war, no”. There have been demonstrations outside US embassies in Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil.
Of course, the war looks different depending on where you’re watching it. Television coverage outside Britain and the USA has shown civilian suffering in much greater detail. Far more airtime has been given to expressions of indignation by ordinary Iraqis – largely excised from our screens here.
But even in the USA, where war coverage is sanitised and the reality of death and destruction veiled, protest has continued. On 22 March, a quarter of a million demonstrated in New York City. There have been marches and rallies in cities and towns across the country. Non-violent direct action has proliferated – almost entirely unreported in the media. Trade union bodies representing 5 million US workers – one third of organised labour in the country – have come out against the war, as have most of the major religious denominations. Student activism has reached levels not seen sine the 1970s. The level of visible public dissent is greater than it was during most of the Vietnam War.
So the thousands of British schoolkids who walked out of their classes in protest against the war are very much part of a vast global movement. It’s a highly diverse movement with varying and sometimes conflicting ideologies. There’s certainly no single political mastermind behind it – it’s bubbled up from the grass roots.
The world-wide demonstration on 15th February were unprecedented in the history of our species: never before have so many people in so many different societies spoken with one voice on one day. These demonstrations did not stop the war, but they did herald the growth of a new internationalist consciousness among many millions spread across the globe. That consciousness places the value of human life first, and national loyalties some way behind. And despite the triumphalism of the war party, it has not receded with the advance of US troops on Baghdad. As a front-page article in the New York Times acknowledged, “there may still be two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world public opinion.” That second super-power has only begun to flex it muscles.
KIRKBY TIMES NEWS WEBSITE – MARCH 03
School Pupils walk out as War in Iraq begins
Kirkby times can report that were protests by School Pupils in Liverpool City Center today Weds 20 March 2003. The Pupils walked out of lessons to protest at the news of the Iraq War starting off in earnest at around 2.45 am early this morning, early dawn in Iraq.
Pupils Block Roads
The pupils were said to number between 250 and 300 and the protests began at 1.00pm when it became apparent to Merseyside Police that large numbers of the protestors blocking roads at Mount Pleasant/Brownlow Hill were pupils aged between 12 to 15 according to Police spokesman Superintendent Alan Cooper who said on Radio Merseyside that “Officers noticed many protestors in uniform” and also said that they were “Obviously truanting” However, a lot of parents support their kids making a stand and will not agree with Supt Alan Cooper.
Police very unhappy at events
Some pupils from Calderstone School denied ‘truanting’ and said that the school has told pupils “those with notes could attend protests”, however, many pupils admitted to not having permission from the school and one pupil told the media that ‘they just walked out” and that they “wanted to do what they could to stop this war” Supt Cooper was at pains to present reasons that kids should not protest at Iraqi Children being murdered, one of the reasons kids should not be protesting, he claimed , was because “they could fall victim to unscrupulous characters who will subject them to be victims of crime” Er, what? Are you saying 300 kids are going to preyed on by perverts or something? Maybe Supt Cooper may be as well to just go after the unscrupulous characters which he admits are out there on his patch.
Headmaster tries to accuse political groups of ‘using’ kids
Brian Davies the Head Teacher of Calderstone School, one of the schools who took part in the protests, told the local radio that “Some of these children will be exploited for political ends by political groups”. One thing’s for sure, Tony Blair would use these Pupils, and is maybe using some of their older brothers as cannon fodder which may well be said to be ‘political exploitation’ of the very worse sort. Kirkby Times is sure pupils will be able to make there own minds up as to whether or not to take part in protests or join political groups. We should be glad our kids have an interest in such matters.
Councillor Paul Klein of Liverpool Education Authority was sympathetic as to the reasons that the kids protested and walked out of lessons. He reminded people that every generation had its own things to stand up for and it was, in some ways, refreshing to hear someone in a position of authority show some compassion to these kids and an understanding as to why they have done what they done. The Police were not happy atall with these protests, but as we all know the Police are only happy if protesters behave like a herd of polite sheep. Now is not the time for polite protests, we’ve been down that road and it never worked. The only route left, as protesters and Police will soon discover, is Civil Disobedience. Many of us, who are going to London on Saturday, do so to cause as much noise etc as possible. The time for niceties is over. We cannot allow our Government to Kill children in our name.
To all the pupils involved in today’s protests, Kirkby Times salutes you.
* In South Africa, schoolkids led the protests in Cape Town and were joined by workers from factories. The US consulate has seen a continuous picket outside it since the war started, with at least 50 people always maintaining a presence.
Striking school children, some as young as 11 and 12, brought Brighton City Centre to a halt last Thursday in protest over the British and American invasion of Iraq. Taking to the streets with chants of “No War,” “One, two, three, four, Tony Blair is Bush’s whore,” and other brilliantly unprintable slogans, the students blocked roads in the city centre for nearly four hours, telling perturbed motorists to “Turn off your engines, you ain’t goin’ nowhere.” Cynical, disillusioned Brighton activists were spotted in the area, wandering in a haze of shock, awe and respect, gobsmacked by people half their age with twice as much energy and imagination. “I was just about to trade in my Palestinian scarf and trendy body jewellery for a thankless call centre job,” said one old, formerly disenchanted 23-year-old in a faded Che Guevara t-shirt. “But today has convinced me that the revolution may still be possible!”
Meanwhile, one group of school kids (pursued by rabid Socialist Worker’s Party paper-sellers) broke off from the main march and paid a visit to the local American Express building. The pledge of allegiance was not said, the star spangled banner was not played, but nonetheless, the American flag became the centre of attention for much of the crowd, who decided the old stars and stripes were in need of a drastic makeover. An upstanding, tax-paying, Daily Mail-reading bystander who was later quoted in the Argus, described the event as sickening and depraved, but a nearby American reckoned it was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.
Earlier in the day, in an important lesson on free speech, teachers and heads around the city locked many young pupils into their schools, desperate to keep them from expressing an opinion. Pupils at Blatchington Mill, Cardinal Newman, Dorothy Stringer, Varndean, and Patcham were threatened with suspension, expulsion, and extra citizenship classes (to teach them the real meaning of democracy and blind obedience) if they left school to participate in protests. In some cases, pupils even faced locked gates and the harrowing spectre of future visits from local blood-thristy pro-war Mps. But in a series of daring walk-outs and escapes, hundreds of locked-down school kids still managed to join the protests in the town centre.
SchNEWS were on the scene at Blatchington Mill when, at 11am, a brave group of around 50 students walked out of school past barely-opened iron gates and a grimly frowning headmaster. (Readers may remember Blatch’s open-minded head, one Mr. Neil Hunter, when he referred to pupils that had staged a spontaneous anti-war demo a few weeks ago as “mindless idiots.” Since the spontaneous walk-out, six Blatch kids have been excluded and the “always wanting to show both sides of the argument” Mr. Hunter has invited the local pro-war MP, Ivor Caplin, to come and spew pro-war propaganda at the school. After leaving Blatchington, the triumphant procession of Blatch kids met up with nearly 200 other excited and out-of-breath pupils who had just rushed out of Cardinal Newman. “We’ve just escaped, we’ve just escaped our school,” they panted. “They tried to lock us in!” Teachers had tried to lock gates and chase anti-war escapees through the school grounds, but many kids still managed to find a way out. As SchNEWS rounded a corner near Cardinal Newman school, the sight that awaited was grand indeed – 20-30 blue and grey-jumpered Newman kids pouring over an exterior stone wall after teachers had blocked all other routes of exit from the school.
Eventually the whole group of anti-war pupils made it safely and soundly down to the Old Steine for a day of protest and road-blocking. Many of the kids were still around at 5:30 the same afternoon, when nearly 5,000 people (probably Brighton’s biggest ever demo) converged on Churchill Square. Even in the evening, most of the chants and road sit-downs were led by school kids from all over the city.As one young protestor explained, “We did it because we wanted our voices to be heard. We were rebelling against the Government because we feel it is rebelling against us.”
* Kids in Therfield school Leatherhead who bunked off to go to an anti war demo where given lines by the Headmaster “I will not walk out of school.”
* Thousands of newly politicised school kids took part in anti-war demonstrations all across the UK last week. For more info from the school-uniformed frontlines in Manchester, London, and hundreds of other cities, check out www.indymedia.org.uk
AUSTRALIA Sydney – March 03
I was in the city yesterday, and witnessed the protests. While some of the protesters I spoke to were shy and not all that articulate (that’s why they’re still at school, to learn), those I spoke to understood well the arguments against the war on Iraq. Amongst these were a pair of siblings who had been adopted to Australia after their parents had been killed in the 1991 bombings of Baghdad, and two sisters who had come to Australia as Palestinian refugees. To say that these children do not know about war is simply patronising. I only wish I was as passionate and enthusiasm about opposing the war as they were. Maybe older Australians could learn a thing or two from them.We should not let the fact that there were small (very isolated I might add) incidences of violence detract from the rally. The main violence (sadly unreported by the corporate media) was from the police. I witnessed over 300 police decked out with revolvers and goggles (to protect from pepper spray) blocking the exit of a mere 500 high school students who were peacefully protesting John Howard’s office in Phillip Street, surrounding them from both sides (with two regiments of mounted police on horses) and arresting anyone attempting to leave. Amongst these were very young children, who were extremely frightened, with older siblings and parents were trapped on the other side and pleading with police to let them out, and a young diabetic who was needing to leave to get insulin. When I questioned police about why they were holding the crowd prisoner, none of them could answer. This made the young protesters scared and angry enough to try to force passage out.The other horrifying thing I witnessed was mounted police (6 or 7 of them) on mounted horses, charging straight over a group of demonstrators in an attempt to disperse them. I was absolutely ashamed for the police, especially after I saw a young girl of about 12 from a Middle Eastern background brutalised and arrested by 3 massive police, seemingly for doing nothing other than voicing her opposition to the war. As an Australian and an educator, I was absolutely horrified. It was a dark day for Australian democracy.
MARCH 2003 – MANCHESTER & NORTH
Two lots of protests took place in Liverpool City Centre. One was largely led by groups of schoolkids many still in uniform, blocked major city centre roads, causing havoc. The main protest took place at 5pm in Liverpool city center as around 1500 people people blocked many major roads in the city centre. Reports [1,|
2| 3]. In Hebden Bridge and Halifax the days events included school students demonstations, candle-lit vigils and shutting down two Esso filling stations.
On Wednesday day a demonstration arranged by school children in Manchester city centre turned into an impromptu reclaim the streets as around a thousand pupils ran circles around GMP for three and a half hours.
School children stormed Lancaster in anti-war protests. A peace camp was set up in centre of town, the Town Hall occupied and the ring road shut down. While earlier on Monday Whalley Range schoolchildren organised their own protest.
San Francisco protesters stage a ‘vomit in’
Bay City News
Thursday, March 20, 2003
08:41 PST — In a unique form of opposition, some protesters at the Federal Building staged a “vomit in,” by heaving on the sidewalks and plaza areas in the back and front of the building to show that the war in Iraq made them sick, according to a spokesman.
Many of the approximately 300 protesters demonstrating at the building at 450 Golden Gate Ave. attempted to block building entrances.
Seven anti-war demonstrators were arrested at mid-morning as they sought to block a group of about 20 federal employees and other visitors seeking to enter the building, Department of Homeland Security spokesman Ron Rogers said.
Rogers said all seven were charged with creating a disturbance and two were additionally charged with resisting arrest.
Only the back entrance of the Federal Building on Turk Street was open this morning. People with business inside the building were required to wait outside and were allowed to pass through metal barricades at intervals. The seven arrests occurred during one of the intervals as federal police officers sought to lead visitors around the metal barricades into the building.
On the Larkin Street side of the building, demonstrators blocked the driveway that leads into a basement garage used by federal judges and other officials who work in the building.
Numerous officers from the Federal Protective Service and San Francisco Police Department, wearing helmets and other riot protection gear, formed lines around the building.
Switzerland, Thursday, March 20th, 2003
10:30 thousands of schoolkids start to assemble in Bern, whole schoolclasses are marching through the neighborhoods to join the others
11:30 chaos in the city. kids everywhere protesting the war. i spot some funny signs: piss on war [uuuhhh] frenchkiss not war [good one! but would “make love not war” be too sexual for todays youth?] or seid lieb [which i find quite cute, it translates as “be nice”]
13:30 after protesting in front of the us-embassy in bern, the kids need a big mac. huge lines at mcdonalds. a girl is complaining as she slurps her coca cola, she has never seen such a long line
Capitalism-as-usual (no security) comes to Japan, and schoolkids turn violent
YOKOHAMA, Japan — By sixth grade, a growing generation of preteenage rebels has begun walking in and out of classrooms at will, mocking the authority of adults and even attacking teachers who try to restrain them.
Similar problems show up in higher grades too, with nearly half of all high schools reporting violence, higher dropout rates and problems like student prostitution.
“Up until now, Japan was a society in which children obeyed adults, but this relationship between children and adults is no longer workable, because the system was built around the idea that by doing well in school you should enter a good company, and having lifetime security,” said Naoki Ogi, an education expert. “Over the last 10 years, however, Japan hasn’t found a way out of its economic depression, and from the children’s viewpoint, the academic record-oriented system has collapsed. Moral values are collapsing, too.
“So children feel they have no one they can trust, no adult society they can look up to.”
Interview With A Schoolkid
The following is an interview with a 15 year old from North London about the 12 March (2003) Schools Walkout;
How did you first hear about it?
By word of mouth – the schools are all close to each other and people know each other. It wasn’t particularly done on the internet.
Why that day?
Don’t know. I knew a week in advance, and it was clear from the beginning that the teachers must not find out. We were told to spread it around among our mates.
What about the rest of the country?
The organisers had some kind of network.
What happened on the day?
We went to school without our bags or anything. The walk out time was 9.30 for everybody, that is when it all happened. We had a supply teacher who didn’t know what was going on. We all just got up, the whole class, she tried blocking the door and saying ‘you will get in trouble’. So we all marched out, and everyone was there because it was the same time for everyone. Once we were outside the school we got everyone together and marched up to Parliament Hill School to pick up the people there, and on the way, La Santa Union. They were already waiting for us. Then we all marched down to Kentish Town where we all got on the tube.
How many people were you?
Out of our year…um… everyone. Apart from three or four people.
What was the reaction from people on the streets as you marched to the tube?
People seemed quite shocked. Looking at their watches because we should have been in school.
How did you feel?
Great! Cheering, banging on the escalators. Writing no war signs. It was amazing when we got on the tube. There was a bit of debate before we got on about our tickets – whether to bunk it or not.
How was that decision made?
We were all standing around outside talking about it then this guy who is quite big and loud stood up on this box and shouted for everyone’s attention. He said “how should we get on the tube, should we pay or not”. Everyone shouted out what they thought and it was clear that most people thought we shouldn’t pay – so he said that was what we are going to do.
We got to Embankment tube and more people had come by then – from more schools around London. It was amazing at Embankment tube – they have a line of ticket barriers and we were all standing there, looking around, thinking “Shit, what should be do?” and then we walked up to the barriers and said “shall we just jump it?” and we had about 600 people all jumping over the barriers at Embankment station. It was an amazing sight.
When we got out everybody was quite worked up. We marched to Parliament Square.
By that time people were taking notice. People that go on marches all the time. Organisers of marches, people with placards. They came when they heard what was going on.
How do you think they found out so quickly?
Through local news coverage.
How did you feel about that? What was your reaction?
I thought it was good. They realised what was going on even though it wasn’t organised by them. Everyone thought it was good.
Was there any sense of “this is our thing”?
NO – not at all!
So – we were at Parliament Square and shouting and getting people to beep their horns and we started talking about what to do. Some of us started talking to some older people (about 16 years old) and thought we should do a road block by Big Ben, in front of Parliament. Everybody was up for that. That was the bit where the police started to get a bit heavy. They weren’t being really bad though. And then we generally decided, by people shouting, that we should move to Whitehall. So everybody stood up at the same time and we went. There was a big dash to Whitehall, by Downing Street. Once we were there we spent quite a long time demonstrating, with placards etc. By this time there were about 1000 people there. Then loads of police arrived in vans.
What was the reaction to this?
There was a bit of panic. Some people left, but most people decided to stay. We were pushed up against the gates of Downing Street just because there was so many people. Then the police decided to push everyone away from Downing Street. They had crash barriers that they were using to push us back. They were quite obviously prepared. So everybody got pushed back and we decided to sit down. The police then really wanted to be people away. They were picking people up by whatever means possible and dragging them back to the other side of the street behind a big set of barriers. People being picked up by their throats, having hands twisted behind them, that wasn’t nice.
What was peoples’ reaction?
Did people fight back a bit?
A little bit, but mostly they were overpowered quite easily. They were angry though. It was weird because we were behind the barrier we stood and watched as one by one people were dragged off and put behind us. It was like watching a film.
Was anyone arrested?
Some people were cautioned, but I don’t think they wanted to arrest anyone.
So it was about 3.00 pm and generally everyone was quite pissed off by this point. It slowly dispersed. I went back with my mates on the tube.
How were you talking about it?
It was an excited atmosphere that we had managed to do something quite spontaneous. It was fun as well because so many people had turned up – you could go round to people and ask what school they were from. And we were all the same age.
Did you have any repercussion from your teachers?
The only one was my head of year being sarcastic and patronising saying “oh you feel really good now, you can give yourselves a pat on the back”. We haven’t got in trouble from any of the other teachers, but also no support. One week later everybody who went on the march had to say something in assembly of the whole school about why they went. Everybody said a little bit. It was meant as some sort of punishment, but we were all up for it. A chance to have our say. People said stuff about the police brutality. [The boy’s dad reckons the assembly was the teachers supporting the kids].
How did the other kids react?
They all cheered and stuff.
Are there other plans now? Has this spurred you on?
There have been a lot of meetings and stuff. The school council has been turned into an anti-war thing.
Are discussions taking place anywhere else as well – amongst you lot?
Yes – there are Socialist Worker discussions organised. They spread the word for the walk-out too. The meetings are at Euston Square.
What sort of people go to that?
Quite a lot of people, a whole mix of people.
Is there a buzz? Has it changed the way you talk generally, with your mates or other people you come into contact with?
Oh definitely! Before it was like ‘what’s the point in talking about things like that, we can’t make a difference’, but now we feel that we CAN do that. Something can happen if we all talk to each other.
What sort of conversation are you having now?
People asking what is going to happen next. What should we do. What would happen if the war started. On that day what would happen. That we would walk out when war starts.
Have any of those conversations been about other stuff too – what you think about other stuff? Why there is this war for example. Has the conversation got broader?
Yeah – I think so. We can talk to each other more now.
Are there people who you weren’t friends with before who you talked to on the demo, who you now have a different relationship with?
Yeah – I met people who I knew years ago who I am now back in contact with. I am staying in contact with them to talk about what is happening. There is a general feeling that if we keep in contact then it is going to spread more. There is more sense of communication.
Do you think that this might turn into something more than an anti-war thing – or was it always more than that?
Definitely. It is about a number of things. Walking out of school was definitely the focus. We could easily have done it on a Saturday but coming out of school was more effective.
Do you think people realised that – that that is why they were doing it and why they were doing it on a Wednesday?
What do you think the point is, though?
I think the point is that you can easily punish one person for doing something wrong – but you can’t punish everyone and even though one person may have a good point – a group of people are going to be much more effective.
Do you think it is something about school and authority and being forced to be in school?
Yeah – what is authority if it doesn’t work.
Have you talked to people who didn’t go?
Yeah – the year 10s (14&15 year olds) didn’t know about it – there was quite a big dividing line between the years. There was a major hype in year 11 about it and I don’t think that happened in the lower years. I don’t think it really changed anything for those who didn’t walk out.
Do you think that they would walk out with you if it happened again?
Definitely. Now they realise what can go on – what a group of people can do.
Have you been reading more leaflets? Have people been passing round bits of paper?
A little bit – but mostly talking.
Do you think this is about the war?
It partly is – but it is not the only thing. It is also about the police. Not just that they were they brutal last Wednesday, but that they are not helping with the crime. Kids from my school are getting mugged and threatened on an everyday basis. It is also about school. The teaching has reached the point now where is all just focused on the exams – it is not really about what you are learning, just about how to pass. How to get good grades.
The following is a personal report of the school kids actions from the Thursday, 20 March, the day war broke out.
“I went down to Parliament Square about 10.00 am and there were mostly school kids there. About 500 school kids and maybe 50 adults. They were milling about in Parliament Square. Then suddenly they moved – fast – into the road on the north side of the square. “SIT DOWN, STOP THE WAR”. So we did. Loads of us, suddenly. The police take time to react and then start coming round with their lines, their discipline, their orders. When the crowd sense they are coming near – they move – FAST! They remind me of the starlings by Brighton West Pier. They are unified – in touch with each other – there is a group mood and a group mind. We run across Parliament Square to the south side and repeat the sit down. When it is time to move again the word goes round to go to Downing Street. We run – it is thrilling – to be running in a big crowd. The police helpless and confused. Foolishly grabbing out as we streamed past them. But I also saw anger on some police faces. The cars were furious and taxis were driving into people.
So we get to Downing Street. Hundreds of us. “SIT DOWN. STOP THE WAR”. When the police come – which takes them time with to get up from Parliament Square – we move again. First to the other side of the road, then the crowd splits – half up to towards Trafalgar Square and half of us back down to Parliament Square – running – exulted, pulsing with the trill of the big group, the power, the moment, keeping the cops on the run. (I noticed that I was taking a moment to decide which group to go with – which way to run – but the kids were just moving.)
When we get back down to Parliament Square there are lots more of us, people have been arriving all the time. Then there are blocks on all sides of the square all the time. Fluid, moving and constant. We were knocking over the crash barriers every time we ran onto the road and sometimes dragging them round into the road to help our block.
The police get really pissed of and the tension rises. They start being really nasty – sticking fingers into pressure points, pulling ears and hair. They knocked one girl unconscious. We were chanting “This is what democracy looks like” and also “peace, peace, peace” as they got rougher and rougher. To be in this situation and to look round and not see direct activists, or trots, but 15 year old Muslim girls, or young boys in school uniform – was amazing. This was not the usual run-of-the-mill demo!
One precious sight was the cops trying to push us back and people throwing stuff at them – rubbers, pencils, note books, pencil cases sailing over my head and pelting the cops. One cop was standing on the corner bit of a crash barrier and we tipped him off. Ha ha.
Later – when the adults arrived and the kids went home the whole tone changed. We were a disparate bunch of individuals and small groups. If some of us started running the whole mass would not automatically turn. We stuck to our own and did not trust the group to take risks together.
School herds them all together, homogenises them into the mass, troops them into assemblies and into the playground together, the whistle goes and they troop back in – so it is there, ready to backfire. Also – when you are that age – all that matters is being with the group – being with everyone and being where it is at. And – no-one told them the standard pattern of actions – wait in one space so the police can section 60 you. Stand behind the crash barriers, etc – they didn’t have no rules, especially as they had just broken out of their school (some had to climb the walls when the schools locked the gates) – they were going where they wanted. They had energy, power and unity and I felt really privileged to be there in that moment with them.”
A LEAFLET HANDED OUT TO SCHOOLKIDS AND FLYPOSTED NEAR SCHOOLS AT THE BEGINNING OF THE WAR IN MARCH 2003;
No Class Today – No Class Society Tomorrow
School kids have been walking out of school and taking action all over the world in order to protest against the war. In London they went to Whitehall and did not just passively allow the police to tell them what to do, but fought back and tried to climb the gates into Downing Street. In Oxford 500 school kids walked out and took over the town centre, forcing an Army recruitment stall off the streets, trapping soldiers in their van for half an hour, and blocked the roads. At Parliament Hill School the teachers locked the kids in to prevent them from going on the anti-war action.
They are not just protesting against this war, they are fed up with a world where such wars are possible, fed up with the authoritative, stifling, boring factory of school. Fed up with being the victims of muggings then blamed as anti-social. In London 50,000 kids bunk off every day. Now there are hundreds of new initiatives and partnerships designed to control this. The government is introducing an ‘anti-social behaviour’ white paper so parents of truant kids can be fined up to £8400. They are trying to control an increasingly explosive situation. The widening gap between wages (or dole money) and the cost of living means that young people are having to live with their parents for longer, threatening the autonomy young people have achieved in recent years. In Italy in the 70s students took over schools and universities and turned them into social centres, to create their own autonomous spaces.
Charles Clarke, the Secretary of State for Education speaks of team spirit: “Everyone in a school teachers, pupils, parents, classroom assistants, technicians, administration, caretakers, catering staff are part of a team and the school itself is likely to do best where the school is working well.” What a great team it is! Frequently kids kill themselves because they are bullied by their teachers or classmates. No government has increased competition in the classroom more than New Labour. Their obsession with tests and tables places more and more pressure on students. Most kids sit at least 30 formal tests before they reach secondary school; some take as many as 43. Even 7 year olds are assessed now! How much longer do they think students will accept this? A team based on competition is a strange thing. Not surprising that another element is needed to get it working. Clarke: “Teamwork is crucial. But the grit in the oyster is leadership.” This leadership is nothing more than a nice word for oppression.
School is there to prepare us for future exploitation. To accept low wages and bad conditions because we ‘failed’ at school. The system is set so that 80% of people will get less than a ‘good mark’, thereby having their self-esteem knocked enough so they will be more resigned to their fate of exploited worker, parent, unemployed reserve workforce. The discipline at school prepares us for obeying the orders of the bosses. School learning is split into single subjects; everything is reduced to answers to be spat out in exams. The division of subjects prepares us for the division of jobs people doing one boring job over and over again for years. Human existence could be a fluid moving between activities, ideas, creativity… the beauty of building, the dance of design, the poetry of pottery, the music of maths, the love of languages… (not so sure about the lyricism of that one…)
Schools are part of a world where creativity, spontaneity and individual expression only count if you can sell them or they help you work profitably. This is why kids are fed up with knowledge they don’t really need, which is knowledge for their future bosses. Throughout history there is also a tradition of working class people organising their own education. In prisons, within social movements, organising their own discussion groups etc. This continues to this day and what each person learns in moments of struggle is part of it.
When we act together in struggle we learn more than they could ever teach us. It is in this act that we really find out what real cooperation can be. We are not divided into specified roles, we can think for ourselves, disagree and discuss, act together, plan out practical things and work out how to do it together, get into contact with other groups, break down the separation into generations. We learn languages to communicate with students struggling in other countries, we learn about technology to communication over the internet, we have to work out what we really think, because it matters for once. We read other peoples words to help us understand the present, to inspire us and give us new ideas. This reading feeds into our discussions and decisions it is not cold and sterile as it is in school. This is where we can learn what a better future society could look like. When we see what is possible with each other it makes a mockery of their discipline.