By Paul Howes
SYDNEY — Around 500 high school students from across the city walked out of school on October 22 to voice their opposition to the NSW government's "street safety legislation".
The proposed legislation gives police the power to break up groups of more than two people if they have a "suspicion" that the group "might intimidate, harm or obstruct others". These laws were part of the Labor state government's election platform to "reclaim the streets" from the "youth crime wave" which is supposed to sweeping Sydney.
The newly formed United Secondary Students' Union (NSW) called for action over the proposed legislation which it says is "a violation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Children". October 22 fell in the International Week of Children, which the state government claims to support.
The students rallied at Town Hall then joined with community groups for a march to NSW Parliament House, staging a sit in at an intersection along the way.
At Parliament House, protesters heard speakers from USSU, Justice Action, Aboriginal Deaths in Custody Watch Committee, Resistance and Justice for Young People. Protesters then marched back to Hyde Park where a "dance party for justice" was held until the police broke it up.
Blaxland High student Bronwyn Powell, who is a member of USSU and Resistance, told Green Left Weekly that "the problem lies not with the young people who commit the crimes, but with a government that doesn't give young people facilities and control of their own affairs. This legislation avoids the real issues of youth poverty, high unemployment and the lack of youth control over youth affairs. To prevent youth crime, these need to be addressed."