By Keara Courtney and Becky Fairall Lee
SYDNEY — High school students here walked out of school on July 2 to attend a rally in opposition to the rise of Pauline Hanson and racism. The socialist youth organisation Resistance, which organised the protest, condemned police violence that broke up the 150-strong peaceful rally.
Five young protesters were arrested after police used excessive force in ending a brief occupation of the foyer of John Howard's office. The rally then proceeded to the Surry Hills police station to meet those who had been arrested, who were released without being charged.
Kieran Barley, a year 10 Glebe High school student, said, "Resistance organised this walkout and rally to say no to Pauline Hanson's One Nation and the rise of racism. Students walked out of their schools, determined to attend the rally despite threats of suspension and detentions from principals.
"Speakers at Town Hall denounced Hanson's racism and opposed her plans for universal National Service and curfews for people 16 years and under. The rally then marched to Howard's office and peacefully occupied the lobby in order to oppose the racist policies of the Coalition government, such as today's deal with Harradine to remove native title rights and its abolishing of welfare rights for migrants."
Emma To, also a member of Resistance and also a student at Glebe High, said, "The police quickly arrived and threatened us with arrest. Police gave us no warning, and in less than 15 minutes protesters were forcibly removed from the lobby. Many of us were trying to negotiate with the police to avoid any trouble, but they simply would not talk and were not interested.
"Once outside, protesters resumed chants demanding land rights and opposing police force. Police responded like thugs by arresting three high school students. While students demanded their release, two other protesters were arrested.
"Police harassment even got to the stage that police mounted on horses followed students who were leaving the police station for over a kilometre."
Despite the police violence, participants considered the walkout and rally a great success.
"The arrests have not discouraged us from preparing for the next walkout and rally, which we are expecting several thousand high school students to come to", said Lara Thoms, a Resistance member at Mosman High.
"Resistance is organising a national day of action for July 24. In Sydney, students will be walking out at 1pm and will meet at 2pm at the Town Hall Steps. I hope that as many students as possible will join us in opposing Hanson's racism."
The following day media crews fought over high school students and those who had been arrested, trying to secure an interview. Resistance is hoping to debate One Nation supporters and even Pauline Hanson herself over the next week.