Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Blast from the Past
Lent is a time for reflection and exploration and the Scottish First Minister (Jack McConnell) got a hearty dose of this at a question and answer session this week (for full news story click here. It all referred back to 2003, which saw me and around 20 other students as newly politicised ringleaders of the Edinburgh School Student protest against the (then) possible War in Iraq. I was part of a group that managed to get around 2,000 school students out on the streets in a day of action that was exhilarating, exciting, peaceful and engaging. I know that day changed many peoples lives. That said, it created a major political stink as politicians were caught trying to condemn us (because we were encouraging a strike from school... oops!) whilst also say that we have a right to our opinion and to express it. What came across in the end was a mealy mouthed statement which it appears has come back to haunt Jack McConnell (the First Minister of Scotland)an election past the nearest Scottish Parliament elections to the outbreak of war. This was an argument fought out in the press and in Parliament. It was an amazing affirmation of the power of the action that we did. Why blog about this? Because I think that we need to realise that impressions once made last and also things will come back to haunt us all at the most surprising of times, often when we think we have suppressed negatives and moved on from that moment. (A documentary of the protest was made by myself and others (facilitated by Pilton Video) and is at the top of this post (in an edited format), it won many high profile awards in the UK and around the world. For the full listing etc click ) Take Care Y'All John (Beneath is the typical news reaction from the Scotsman Newspaper... "Nation's youth play truant in the name of peace SEONAG MACKINNON EDUCATION EDITOR THOUSANDS of schoolchildren and students across Scotland brought traffic to a standstill yesterday as they demonstrated against the war in Iraq. The Tay Road Bridge, in Dundee where the Scottish Labour Party is about to hold its annual conference, was blocked by a sit-down protest. Click to learn more... Teenagers, along with dozens of university students and adult protesters, waved banners and shouted peace slogans as they tried to ascend the ramp onto the busy river crossing in the early afternoon. In separate incidents, school pupils hurled stones at buses and eggs were thrown at police lines outside Dundee’s city chambers. In Edinburgh, Lothian and Borders Police yesterday described adults as "irresponsible" for encouraging children to skip school for a wildcat, disorganised demonstration through heavy city traffic. Glasgow University students and lecturers held up traffic when they too staged a sit-down demonstration for half an hour in the middle of a main citycentre thoroughfare. And more than 80 school children at Loudoun Academy, in Galston, Ayrshire, boycotted classes to add their voice to the anti-war movement. Two arrests were made during the two-hour demonstration which blocked the centre of Edinburgh for a while. There were about 500 protesters, most of them secondary-school pupils, some as young as 12. It is believed several children were detained by police until parents could be contacted to take them home. A Lothian and Borders Police spokeswoman said: "We believe adults who encouraged school children to truant from school for this demonstration have acted irresponsibly. "Officers had no idea of the demonstration’s planned route so they could arrange for protesters to walk safely through streets where there was heavy traffic." However, organisers said it was vital that children be allowed to voice their opposition to the war. Keith Prince, a Stop the War activist from Edinburgh, said: "Truancy is being absent from school without good reason. But the children here today have good reason. What better reason could there be than to voice opposition to a bloody and illegitimate war?" Gavin Forbes, 15, from Balerno High, had taken time off to attend the demo, to join the SNP MSP Lloyd Quinan and the Scottish Socialist Party leader, Tommy Sheridan. The pupil addressed the 500-strong crowd saying: "The teachers aren’t happy that we’re here today. My social and personal development teacher tried to persuade me to protest by writing letters. But I told her I’ve already done all that." Police had to second guess the demonstration’s route as it made its way around Edinburgh city centre. Headteachers voiced their fears that pupils protesting against the war were being drawn into contact with far-Left organisations and encouraged to truant. School staff have warned pupils that the walk-outs will be officially classed as unauthorised absence on their report cards, even if they have a note from home indicating parental consent. Roy Jobson, Edinburgh’s director of education, said: "While we understand the young people’s reaction to war, we are becoming increasingly concerned not just at the disruption this is causing to their education, but by the fact that these demonstrations are not well organised and young people could be putting themselves and others at risk." Jack Hamilton, the head of Boroughmuir High, in Edinburgh, said that it was entirely legitimate for young people concerned about the war to demonstrate but not during the school day. "Parents act in good faith and they may have similar views to their children, but young people are required to come to school," he said. Commenting on the prominent presence at the city-centre demonstration of adults from far-Left groupings, Mr Hamilton said: "I have grave reservations about youngsters going on something when we do not know who the organisers are.""