Britain: Defend anti-war protesters

THE SCHOOL student and student strikes on the day war with Iraq began (Day X) will never be forgotten by the thousands who participated in them. All over Britain school students organised debates, actions, protests and walkouts. They were expressing their outrage and opposition to Blair’s determination to continue with the war against Iraq despite the overwhelming opposition of the British population.

While in most areas the planned protests went ahead, many school authorities, local politicians and police tried to intimidate young people in an attempt to minimise the protests.

In Lewisham, London, the police boarded a 185 bus and held school students on their way to a protest in Parliament Square hostage for almost an hour. They then proceeded to physically remove them and take them back to school. In doing so they arrested International Socialist Resistance (ISR) coordinator Karl Debbaut and two other campaigners.

The case against the two others has been dismissed but Karl is still charged with ’assault on a police officer’ – a charge that we totally refute. If not cleared Karl faces the possibility of a six-month prison sentence.

Karl’s courtcase is about the right of school students to protest and to strike. International Socialist Resistance (ISR) took the first initiative in raising the idea of school student strike action and we will campaign against the victimisation of anti-war protesters.

ISR wants to use this campaign to launch local and national debates on the rights of all students. At 14 we are old enough to work, at 15 and 9 months we are old enough to join the army, by the time we are 16 we have had to take countless exams. Yet, across the board action was taken to prevent us from speaking out, from organising on issues that we feel are vitally important to our lives.

Sponsors so far include:

  • Stop the War Coalition,
  • Mark Serwotka General Secretary of the PCS,
  • Janice Godrich President of the PCS,
  • 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.
  • T&G GEC members: Martin Meyer, Chris White, John Boughan. Teresa Mackay Chair of T&G Rural Agricultural Workers Section. Brian Rebel National Organiser of T&G National Agricultural Workers Section.
  • RMT TUC delegates: Joe Grey, Keith Brodel, Neil Kaeith, G Watson, D Elliot, Roy Cottage, Martin Wickes.
  • 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 Brännberg, councillors for Rättvisepartiet Socialisterna, Swedish section of the CWI, in Luleå, Sweden

From The Socialist, paper of the Socialist Party, CWI England and Wales

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