Who really manipulated the students at Aspley?

Issue 

By Bernard Wunsch BRISBANE — Six of the 10 students who participated in the September 8 walkout of Aspley State High School have claimed that they were manipulated by Resistance, the socialist youth organisation which has been active in the anti-nuclear campaign. Leela Cosgrove, Erin Dunn, Kathy and Jade Crutchley and Natalie and Kristal Chapman told the Courier Mail and Channel 7 on October 10 that they had been "used" and "brainwashed" by Brisbane Resistance organiser Zanny Begg. The establishment media have alleged that Begg is more interested in obtaining a seat in parliament than stopping nuclear testing. Resistance high school members have also come under attack. One was threatened with expulsion for speaking to Begg and attending Resistance meetings. The headmaster of Camp Hill sent a letter to every parent warning them about Resistance. In other schools, Resistance members have been hauled into principals' offices for questioning, and Resistance badges have been banned. Begg has been accused of being a "charismatic manipulator of young people". But who really manipulated the students at Aspley? On September 15, Dunn, Natalie Chapman and Cosgrove were interviewed on Channel 7 news and refuted claims that Resistance has set them up, saying that they had organised the walkout at Aspley High. Dunn, interviewed in the October 2 Courier Mail, said that "part of being a person is ... to learn to think for yourself. It's not like Resistance was brainwashing us saying 'do this'. Zanny didn't know about the walkout [at Aspley High], but after it she said, 'Its really cool for you to stand up for your rights'." On October 5, addressing the 3000-strong high school walkout, Cosgrove asked, "Hands up who has been manipulated by Resistance?". They crowd laughed, after which Cosgrove gave a passionate defence of the right of students to be political. Five days later the students were quoted in the media claiming that they had been manipulated. What had changed? Sources close to the students told Green Left Weekly that the pressure to change their story came from the father of the Chapmans who works for the federal police. He allegedly wanted the students to distance themselves from Resistance and form their own group, Student Power Committee. Rather then parting peacefully, the students initiated a campaign against Resistance. When Begg received a call from Kristal Chapman asking for Resistance's high school contact list and information on which schools were planning to participate in the October 18 walkout, Begg, unaware that Chapman had changed her position, mentioned Camp Hill. Following that, the headmaster of Camp Hill was contacted by Ian Issacs, the headmaster of Aspley State High, and some Camp Hill students were hauled in for questioning. The media have been quick to publicise the students' change of heart. The students met with Isaacs on October 9 to explain their new position, and the next day the Courier Mail ran the story just before the second high school walkout. The students also met with Ian Mackie, president of the Queensland Teachers Union, who has lead the campaign against Resistance. He suggested the students join Young Labor rather then establish their own group. On October 12 Resistance held a press conference — to which the Courier Mail and Channel 7 declined to attend — at which high school members refuted the manipulation claims and explained why they had joined Resistance. That evening Begg received an phone call from Erin Dunn and her mother confirming that she had been manipulated, not by Resistance, but by Chapman and the media. She said that she was willing to explain this publicly. A high school meeting of Resistance on October 14 expressed regret at the position taken by the students at Aspley, and noted that Resistance was not angry with the students, but with those who manipulated them. Begg told Green Left Weekly that the red baiting against Resistance, an attempt to derail the anti-nuclear campaign, "would not work". "We will continue our campaign against French nuclear testing for which there is a lot of support — in particular from high school students. "The Anti-Discrimination Commission said we have a good case to take to the board if any school tries to harass Resistance members or inhibit their right to organise." Resistance and the high school campaign have received support from the Anti-Nuclear Alliance, Students Against Nuclear Testing and the Queensland Academics Union. Contact 3254 0565 for more information.

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