Thousands took to the streets in Edinburgh and Glasgow yesterday, 19th November, to oppose the occupation of Iraq and Bush’s visit to the UK. Striking school students defied threats from headteachers and Education Authorities to walk out of class and head the demonstrations.
The Edinburgh and Glasgow daytime demos involved sit-downs and attempts to blockade traffic. In Edinburgh school students burnt an effigy of Bush in front of the US Consulate. The crowd chanted “Burn, Bush, Burn!” as a bonfire was lit on the road.
Demonstrators marched again in both cities in the evening. Protestors from round Scotland swelled the Edinburgh march to around 5,000. Marchers dismantled police barricades near the US Consulate but the police blocked the route to the Consulate building.
Striking school students headed the Edinburgh day-time march on 19th November. Starting from Bristo Square the demo staged 2 brief sit-downs in Princes Street. Some demonstrators wanted to take more meaningful anti war action by blockading the city centre, but the march stewards from Edinburgh Stop the War Coalition moved people on after a very short time.
The demo was bigger than the media reports. Indymedia heard one policeman estimate it at 1,200, and the group of school students at the front was 100-200 strong. Bush puppets floated above the crowd. At the consulate a Bush effigy was held aloft and burnt, and a bonfire set alight in the road.
School students defied intimidation and bullying from the authorities to attend. Parents from Broughton told us that the Head there had threatened action against striking pupils and their parents. St Thomas Aquinas and Portobello pupils were among the many school students present.
In Glasgow reports estimate over 1,000 demonstrators gathered in George Square then took to the surrounding streets. Shawlands Academy pupils were among the striking school students involved.
THE NIGHT BELONGS TO US
Both Edinburgh and Glasgow saw more take to the streets in the evening. The Edinburgh demo was massive, perhaps 5,000 strong, and enlivened by drummers, music and the giant Bush puppet. Banners from Stirling and other areas showed there were demonstrators from round Scotland. The demo weaved its way from Charlotte Square, along Princes Street and up the Mound to the Scottish Parliament. Then it was on to the US consulate, and, as one demonstrator reported to Indymedia:
“During the march, the protestors successfully ran at (and past!) the police lines and, when confronted with barriers preventing them from marching all the way to the US Consulate, promptly threw them to the side and attempted to get past the rows of police to protest outside the US Consulate. In the end it was to no avail and we had to pull back and listen to speakers 50 metres or so from the Consulate itself.”
Another marcher told Indymedia “The demo organisers defused things by starting a meeting well back from the Consulate. The crowd had dismantled the police barriers and it was touch and go whether we were going to try and push through the police line and reach the Consulate. Next time we need to be better organised and take real direct action. Words alone won’t stop the killing.”
Another participant writes about the rally outside the Consulate : “Iranian, Iraqi, Palestinian, Afghan, Mexican, Chilean, Kurdish and American speakers talked about the misguidedness of George Bush's foreign policies, and the damage they had done to their countries. The Chilean speaker sang a song about not forgetting about war crimes, and read the last words of Salvador Allende to his people, to highlight how Bush's action aren't unique or forgivable.
Much attention was given to expressing a message of solidarity to the American people, and reinforcing the message that the protests were not anti-American but anti-Bush, protesting against American aggression and imperialism rather than against the country of America.”
A school student speaker from St Thomas Aquinas was enthusiastically received. The direct action by the school students gives hope that future anti war activity can go beyond symbolic protest to disrupt the war machine.
As the crowd dispersed dozens headed for the buses to take them down to the London demos, where they will join protestors from Glasgow and all over the country.
Thanks to Edinburgh correspondents, we request reports from Glasgow and reports from striking school students in both Edinburgh and Glasgow. Let us know what happened in your school.