International Socialist Resistance activity in Leicester
International Socialist Resistance (ISR) was set up with representatives from across the world at a conference in Belgium at the end of 2001. The first conference of the British ISR was held at the end of last year and there is a branch in Leicester. email email@example.com For more info or check out the ISR national website
Police handling of the successful school student protests in Leicester was belligerent and heavy handed. On the day, 8 people were reportedly arrested and six were charged.
At the youth court on Wednesday, the police dropped the serious charges made against one school student arrested last Friday - assaulting a police officer and possessing an offensive weapon. They obviously had no evidence for these allegations.
The other school students were charged with either "refusing to comply with the instructions of a police officer" or "threatening words or behaviour" In all these cases they just got a "reprimand" which means no further court action and no criminal conviction.
We have to ask - why did they make these charges in the first place then? We think to cover up the police heavy handed blundering on the day and to create headlines that would make the demonstrators look bad!
The one case that is on going is a threatening words and behaviour charge against a 22 yr old. He has pleaded not guilty and his case has been adjourned.
The ISR has, at the time of writing, been in the local papers five days in a row! Apparently the police and “education bosses” are meeting with schools to discuss a strategy on “how to deal with similar mass walkouts in school hours for a demonstration”, with hints of “disciplinary steps”. So far we have heard of no measures taken against school students for last Friday.
A successful ISR meeting was held last Tuesday with representatives of a number of schools and colleges there. Everyone was determined to continue to organise for a walkout on day X
We will also campaign to defend any students who are threatened with action by school heads or the police.
On the morning of Mar 7th schools in Leicester were in ferment in response to the call for walk-outs against the war made by International Socialist Resistance. ISR members were live on the local BBC radio breakfast show earlier, and were also in the Leicester Mercury.
In some cases teachers and even heads were sympathetic to the school students’ cause, even if they felt unable to publicly endorse walkouts. In other cases heads did their best to stop it. In one school a cordon of teachers was placed across the front entrance, so students just jumped over the back fence en masse!
There were feeder marches from a number of schools down to the city centre rally, which was meant to start at 2pm. But when we got there at 1.30, there were already hundreds of school students waiting.
We think, based on reports we have had, that as a minimum 1,000 walked out that day, from maybe 10 schools around the county. No doubt more supported it but were unable to get out. At least 500, maybe more, made it to the City Centre protests. This is, by the way, our most conservative estimate – not hype for press consumption.
There were even school students there who had walked out of schools in Hinckley and Coalville, maybe 12 miles away, and come on the bus to get to the rally! At this point there was torrential rain and wind, but it made no difference to the protesters.
The noise at the Clocktower meeting point was deafening, constant chanting and cheers went up every time someone held up a placard, whether it be home made ones, or ISR or Socialist Party. Chants like “We –want- peace” and “Youth – against – the war” (taken up because of the slogan on the ISR leaflets and placards) were the most popular. Unfortunately it did also mean that the megaphone brought down by ISR members to have some speeches at the rally was completely drowned out! Everything on our stall, that hadn’t already been turned to papier-mache was snatched up, leaflets, walkout pledge cards, posters. The laminated stall wrap around with the Socialist Party “No war for oil” poster was taken and then was to lead the march afterwards!
The event was marred by very heavy handed policing. At 2.30pm they apparently declared the protest an “unlawful assembly” (half an hour after the official starting time), although the school students didn’t know that. They then tried to make this noisy, enthusiastic crowd of 500+ school students disperse. There was no way they were going end their protest. It appears at this point the police made an arrest, which wasn’t seen by the organisers.
The students from that school, mainly Asian youth, then decided off their own back to march to the police station to get their friend out. The entire protest then spontaneously followed them.
The police pulled up in vans to block the school students’ way, but the demonstration then just went straight through police lines! All the way up the road police tried to block the demo and failed.
At the police station the police were again heavy handed, pushing young school students and we had reports of some being hit by police officers. By the end of the day there were 8 arrests, and we hope to set up a defence campaign if it is necessary. (At the time or writing we are still trying to find out who was charged). Certainly we want to have our own enquiry into the events to work out how we can protest at the Police actions.
The demo then set off again around the city, stopping in Town Hall Square where we did manage to have a short rally, and then off again back to the police station! Having got there the police tactic was to push the demonstration along the street on to a busy main road and then round the corner in order to pen us all in.
They eventually allowed the school students out one by one having taken everyone’s details and videoed each person.
These tactics were totally inappropriate and were designed to intimidate the young people on the march who had come down only to protest for peace. Blair tells us that he wants democracy for the people of Iraq, yet it appears we don’t have much of it here!
The next step is to set up a schools students group to co-ordinate action on Day X. We advertised an ISR meeting at the demo to do this. But we also want to send a message to parents as well, why not come down and join us on the demo next time? – follow the lead of the youth!
Leicester isr: firstname.lastname@example.org
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