Thousands leave class rooms across country
On 2 November, thousands of students across the US walked out of school classes and onto the streets to protest against Bush’s war in Iraq and military recruitment in their schools. Below we carry a round up of students’ action from Seattle, Twin Cities, Tacoma and Boston.
Successful student walkouts in protest over Iraq occupation and military recruitment
In August, the call went out from Youth against War and Racism (YAWR) chapters across the country to mobilise for student walkouts and protests on 2 November. We wanted to mark the anniversary of Bush’s re-election with protests demanding an immediate end to the war in Iraq, an end to military recruitment in our schools, and money for education and jobs, not war.
Last summer, YAWR existed in just a few schools in four cities – Seattle, Tacoma, Boston, and the Twin Cities. But students and anti-war groups in at least a dozen cities and six states answered YAWR’s call to action on 2 November.
Reports from across the country indicate extremely lively and inspired protests of mainly high school students, many of whom were participating in their first demonstration.
Unlike many previous anti-war protests, the 2 November student walkouts seem to have made an especially strong political impact, bringing new youth into action and shaking up local schools and communities. The excellent media coverage in many areas gives an indication of the impact YAWR has made.
Below are summarised accounts taken from the reports several areas have sent in about their walkouts.
At 10:30 am, on 2 November, students from over 40 area high schools, middle schools, and colleges walked out of class. By 12:30 am upwards of 2,000 youth had gathered at the University of Minnesota for a lively and radical rally, exceeding the expectations of the organizers (Socialist Alternative, Anti-War Organizing League, and Youth against War and Racism).
High school speakers began by recounting the growing crisis in public education and the need to re-direct war money to education, and demanding an end to military recruitment in their schools.
Other speakers included a representative from the University of Minnesota clerical workers, the Coalition for Equal Access to Education, Socialist Alternative, AWOL, and others.
A lively march followed, winding through campus, taking over streets, and culminating in a combative rally in front of a military recruitment station. This rally blocked the nearby major intersection for 30 minutes. We made spirited chants. Despite not having an official permit for taking to the streets, the police stood aside during the entire march.
The walkout was the top story on all TV and radio news that evening, and was the main item in the local sections of newspapers the next day.
Media and pictures:
On the anniversary of Bush’s re-election, over 1,000 students walked out from about 50 Seattle-area schools and took to the streets to protest against the conflict in Iraq and against US military recruiters in our schools. After walking out of school, wave after wave of students and young people poured into Westlake Centre from across the Puget Sound.
Carrie Hathorn kicked off the rally with an enthusiastic round of school ‘shout-outs’ i.e. a call and response between Carrie shouting out the names of schools represented and each school roaring back.
Next, the band, the Blue Scholars, took to the stage and rocked the mic with political hip hop grooves. High school speakers and endorsing organisation representatives spoke.
Our youthful energy was unstoppable as we marched from Westlake to the Capitol Hill Arts Centre (CHAC). We filled nearly three street blocks, waving protest signs and chanting against military recruiters in our schools and against Bush’s war. Once we reached the CHAC, some students spontaneously sat down in the street. Fortunately, no arrests were made during the march or at our final destination.
Our walkout got a lot of media coverage that will inspire others to get involved in the anti-war movement and to join Youth against War and Racism. We made the front page of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Seattle Times local section.
(To see pictures of the protest visit: http://www.internetking.com.mx/youth-anti-war-protest/)
Students from over a dozen high schools and colleges in the Boston area walked out and joined a city-wide protest, on Boston Common, against the war and military recruitment.
Over 250 students gathered on the Common to hear youth speakers, many speaking before a crowd for the first time. The response to the call for walkouts was tremendous. Over 200 students walked out at Quincy High School, and 75 at the Academy of the Pacific Rim. Students came from the suburbs, as well, and from as far away as New Hampshire.
The event was really inspiring. The crowd was almost entirely made up of young people. For many students it was just their first or second protest. Most of the crowd were high school students, who had heard about the walkout through our leafleting or ‘banner tour’ campaigning, on 29 October. Some saw our stickers and visited the YAWR website.
The rally was really good, with good speeches. People felt free to speak their mind, and they did an excellent job. There was also a really energetic march from the Common to the military recruiting station across the street, then on to the State House and back to the bandstand on the Common.
The most urgent task now is to organize a solidarity campaign with all those students who face disciplinary action by school authorities. There are many students who are facing suspension from their schools.
With Fort Lewis next door, Tacoma is a military town without a strong anti-war tradition in recent years. On 2 November, the first student organised anti-war protest since the Vietnam War-era brought 100 people into the streets to protest at the Tacoma Mall military recruitment station.
A right-wing talk radio station called for a counter-demonstration and managed to mobilise 30 pro-war supporters, who came to smother our demonstration. But they did little more than wave flags and chant — “USA, USA, USA, USA….”
The students were undaunted and replied with a chant of their own: “Support the Troops, Bring Them Home Now!”
Although this was a first protest for Youth against War and Racism (YAWR) in Tacoma, it was a spirited contingent of youth that grew in confidence as the demo went on. Anti-war chants were enthusiastically taken up by the protesters.
After 45 minutes, it was time to march. A contingent of students left the pro-war group standing in the rain. Passing drivers frequently honked in support and gave the thumbs up sign. This response accurately reflected the American public, which is mostly against the war. But it took the youth of Tacoma to break the silence of conformity and vigorously make this anti-war sentiment publicly visible.
The students – now "accompanied" by police – marched back to the Mall and a new chant went up, as we moved through the shopping malls – “While You’re Shopping, Bombs are Dropping!”
Heads turned to hear what Tacoma’s youth had to say. After that rebuke to America’s complacency, the youth returned to the main chants, including “1, 2, 3, and 4…We Don’t Want Your Racist War!”
The demo didn’t end with a defeated whimper but with a roar. Tacoma’s youth have found their voice.
Visit Tacoma News Tribune for a report and photograph of the protest.