High school students get angry, organise against nukes


By Wendy Robertson

"It is young people who will bear the brunt of the effects of nuclear testing, environmental destruction and economic irrationalism. We want to fight back. School authorities and governments should realise that, not only do high school students have opinions about these issues, but we are willing to take a stand on them too."

These were the words of Sam King, an Adelaide Resistance activist, after being suspended from his high school for attempting to organise a campaign against nuclear testing.

Since the announcement in June by the French government that it would resume testing, thousands of young people have joined the campaign to stop nuclear testing and to rid the world of nuclear weapons.

Resistance, the socialist youth organisation with branches in all capital cities and Wollongong and Newcastle, has jumped in quickly to help organise the anti-nuclear sentiment in high schools. This is not a new campaign for Resistance. Since its inception in the mid-1970s, Resistance has been active in the anti-uranium and anti-nuclear proliferation campaigns as part of the longer-term struggle for a peaceful and just world.

High school students were vocal at the Adelaide Hiroshima Day demonstration which attracted more than 6000 people including around 1500 young people. At the rally Resistance launched a Secondary Students Anti-Nuclear Network which joined 30 students on the day. At a subsequent Resistance anti-nuclear campaign meeting, high school students decided to continue building the network and distribute the Resistance anti-nuclear broadsheet.

Resistance is planning a further anti-nuclear action on August 25, as well as other meetings to discuss the campaign. Ring Philippa or Sam on (08) 231 6982 to get involved.

From Canberra, Dean O'Keefe reports that secondary students have formed their own network, Students Against Nuclear Testing. SANT's first action was to organise a protest march of around 150 French students and others to the French Embassy on July 19. Their message was clear — the French government and the Australian government, which mines and sells uranium, were to blame, not the French people. Students chanted in French and held placards painted fluorescent yellow with "Moruroa by Night" written along the bottom.

SANT now has contacts in 14 schools. On August 9, it called on students to wear black to school to commemorate Nagasaki Day and to protest further nuclear testing and uranium sales. Students at Hawker and Phillip Colleges report that over 50 students at each school wore black. Students from at least eight other schools joined the protest, including one Catholic primary school where students declared a uniform-free day so they could wear black.

SANT is planning an all-schools walkout for 1pm on the day the testing starts or on September 1 if testing hasn't begun by then, followed by a rally at Garema Place at 3pm. Phone (06) 247 2424 for details of the next SANT meeting or more information.

The Sydney based Secondary Students Anti-Nuclear Network was launched at the Bastille Day demonstration on July 14. So far the network has contact with more than 400 students from 75 schools.

SSAN has organised stalls and speakers on high schools and its own petition which has been distributed in many schools across Sydney. To date, over 1000 signatures have been collected.

To publicise the next major anti-tests rally which will be held at 12.30pm at First Fleet Park on September 2, SSAN is planning street theatre actions on the weekend of August 26-27. These actions aim to highlight the role of secondary students in the campaign against nuclear testing.

Lachlan Anderson reports that, after campaigning for only one month, the Anti-Nuclear Secondary Students group in Melbourne now includes students from more than 10 schools. "On Hiroshima Day we marched in a group with our own banner while chanting and dancing to percussion. We were the liveliest group by far and lots of ANSS leaflets were distributed to young people at the rally."

ANSS are planning a "die-in" at the Melbourne GPO on August 26 to "remind people that the only use for nuclear weapons is to kill", said spokesperson Lisa Cronin. ANSS is urging all students and others to come along, sign the postcard to Chirac and wear black clothing to represent their opposition to nuclear testing.

A large number of Wollongong high school students are angry about the resumption of nuclear testing and have been organising their own petitions and contingents for protest rallies.

Resistance has held anti-nuclear campaigning stalls at the majority of schools in Wollongong and at the Hiroshima Day rally on August 5, a large proportion of the participants were high school students who were keen to help organise the campaign. The Resistance anti-tests petition was signed by 5500 people on Hiroshima Day and of that, 500-600 were under 18-year-olds.

On Bastille Day in Hobart, high school students helped organise street theatre and a speak-out. A few weeks later 600 high school students attended the Hiroshima Day rally there.

High school students and Resistance activists are organising anti-nuclear campaign meetings at schools and plans are underway to publish an anti-nuclear issue of the Resistance high school newsletter Student Underground. Natalie Woodlock, a Resistance high school activist said: "The production of the newsletter will involve large numbers of students from different schools and will link up with other student actions, for example on university". Phone Natalie on (002) 34 6397 for more details.

An August 11 protest outside the Perth office of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade which was jointly organised by the Secondary Students Anti-Nuclear Coalition and Resistance was attended by 40 young people who spoke out against Australian involvement in the international nuclear cycle through its continuing mining and export of uranium. This was the first public action of SSANC in Perth.

Corinne Glen, a Resistance member and SSANC activist, spoke at the Hiroshima Day rally about the motivation for the network: "Although the Cold War is supposed to be over, young people are still living under the threat of nuclear war ... It is urgent that young people get involved in the campaign against nuclear weapons."

Students representing various high schools attended the first SSANC meeting on August 12. At that meeting SSANC decided to hold an all-ages band night against the nuclear tests and a high school speaking tour, and to produce a newsletter to facilitate further networking between schools about further actions.

To get involved in helping to rid the world of nuclear weapons, become a Resistance member or ring your local branch to find out about the next anti-nuclear event.