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Anti-war activist threatened with imprisonment for taking part in Day X protests

Clare James | 12.09.2003 10:23 | Anti-militarism

Anti-war protester Karl Debbaut, who was arrested on the Lewisham school student demonstration on the first day of war with Iraq, is to fight vigorously a charge of assaulting a police officer at his court hearing in London on 24th September.

* Court hearing Wednesday 24 September, 2 pm Belmarsh Magistrates Court (next to prison), Belmarsh Rd, London SE28. A lobby will be taking place from 1 pm.

Along with thousands of school students who walked out of their classrooms in opposition to Blair's war, Karl, a co-ordinator for International Socialist Resistance (ISR), exercised his right to peaceful protest. Faced with the sheer scale of the strikes - known as 'Day X' - school authorities, police and politicians had no choice but to allow the demonstrations and strikes to go ahead unhindered.

The Lewisham police, however, used numbers and force to prevent school students from participating in the Parliament Square protests, instead physically making them return to school. Karl was arrested, charged with assault on a police officer and faces up to six months in prison if convicted.

Said Karl: "As far as ISR is aware I am the only person to be faced with imprisonment as a result of taking part in a school student protest. However, this is not just about me. For the crime of daring to make their opposition to the Iraq war heard many school students suffered disciplinary action in their schools and even police brutality. As part of this campaign ISR intends to launch a national debate on school students' rights.

"Nationally, International Socialist Resistance took the first initiative in raising the idea of school student strike action. Our initial call, along with that of other parts of the Stop the War Coalition, was seized upon by countless students as the best means of making their voice heard against the tumult of pro-war propaganda.

"The strikes in Lewisham were initiated and organised by schools students who were members of no anti-war organisation, but who then contacted ISR for assistance. Yet, throughout the day of the strike the police in Lewisham treated the school students as mindless truants. Any older anti-war protesters were treated as sinister manipulators.

"Since then the Hutton Enquiry has shown the depths of New Labour's sinister manipulation. Conversely, both the Hutton Enquiry and the nightmare of occupied Iraq show how clear-sighted Britain's school students were when they left their classrooms to try and stop the onslaught on Iraq."

Clare James
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