BY LEIGH HUGHES
ADELAIDE — The first strike in the US-led war on Iraq was the catalyst for the abandonment of classrooms and the closure of several schools across Adelaide on March 20, as hundreds of students walked out in protest.
Students were responding to the message 'when the bombs drop, school stops', which had been broadcast on radio that morning.
Two-hundred students from at least seven high schools gathered to protest at Parliament House, where students chanted, "our voices will not be silenced" and "books not bombs".
Over a dozen students addressed the rally, explaining why the war and trade sanctions on Iraq had brought them to protest. They were outraged at the accusation that they were too young to express their opinions.
Copies of speeches by Howard and Bush were burnt while motorists were urged to 'honk for peace', before ATSIC chairperson Geoff Clark asked to speak, praising the protesters.
Following the protest, 70 students took 5000 leaflets for the next student strike on March 26 to distribute in the city and at their schools.
However, the strike was considerably larger than the rally at Parliament, with reports of entire schools emptying and hundreds of students organising spontaneous protests throughout the city.
The wave of protest against the war took place despite teachers telling their classes that war had not yet started and that "there is no protest, it's just a rumour made up by truants".
At a number of schools students were suspended for walking out of class. At Salisbury College, where the entire student body left school to protest nearby, 50 students were suspended.
"They suspended the people who were loudest in protesting the war", said Ben Daniels, a student at the school.
Grant Brindal, president of the South Australian Association for Media Education said that the walkout resulted in disruption to classes and the "worst teaching day in thirty years".
However, Amy McDonell, an activist from Students Against War, dismissed Brindal's claim, saying that the students had learnt a great deal from the protest.
"By organising and participating in protest against the war students learnt of the importance of standing up for what they believe in", said McDonell, "and also that those in positions of authority aren't always right or telling the truth."
"But as long as students just like us are under attack in Iraq we will not be silenced"
From Green Left Weekly, March 26, 2003.
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