International Reports from Day X:
Across Northern Ireland thousands of school students walk out…
thousands locked in
Across Northern Ireland thousands of students walked out of schools on Day X, responding to the call from Youth Against War. The mood was determined.
Earlier this week, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) had called for a Day X vigil in Belfast for Friday 21 March. However, once war broke out, YAW decided to call out students on what the students would of course recognise as Day X, on 20 March. This followed weeks of campaigning for Day X protests by YAW.
From 3am onwards on 20 March, YAW and Socialist Party members put up posters around most of the schools in Belfast, calling for walkouts later that day.
Given, in many cases, the school authorities’ harsh measures to stop all students’ protesting, the response was brilliant. At least 1,000 school students rallied in Belfast city centre. Pupils from two schools in West Belfast found the authorities had blocked the way out and had placards taken off them. Two hundred were locked in at St Mary’s school.
The mood is so explosive in the schools and the response to the strike call so popular it is difficult to find out all the cases of walk out action across the North. For example, YAW members heard on 21 March that school students in Strabane have been out on strike for two days!
YAW members are getting reports from all over the North from students denied the right to leave schools. Around 400 came out in Omagh town and another 400 were locked in their schools.
Around 1,000 rallied in the centre of Derry city under the broad anti-war coalition banner. School students’ made up the biggest numbers. A YAW member addressed the rally.
Around 250 protested in Enniskillen, including 100 school students. Another 300 students were locked in schools in the town.
YAW has been inundated with many names of students looking for more information, for advice on how to fight the school authorities clampdown and to join YAW.
Today, 21 March, Socialist Party members and YAW ran stalls during the ICTU rally/silent vigil in Belfast City Centre. Around 200 turned up.
Socialist Party and YAW members, Belfast
Angry protests at parliament and US/British embassies
A protest organised by various anti war groups including the Irish Anti War movement was held outside the Dail where a debate over the continued use of Shannon airport for US war aircraft to land and re-fuel was taking place. In the end, the government carried the debate by 77 votes to 60 and have disgracefully allowed the US to continue to use the airport. This implicates them and so-called ‘neutral’ southern Ireland in the war.
There were about 500 people on the protest, including a number of school students. Many schools, universities and workplaces observed the 10-minute stoppage at 12 noon, called by the Irish Anti War Movement.
There was an angry protest outside the American embassy at 6pm that was attended by 3,500 people. It was smaller than recent protests but the mood was very determined and extremely angry. Joe Higgins TD for the Socialist Party was one of the main speakers at the rally and received a very good response. The protest then marched to the British embassy where a ‘die in’ was staged under mock air raid sirens.
Regional demonstrations are planed in cities throughout Ireland this coming Saturday.
Michael Murphy, Socialist Party, Dublin
Socialists’ anti-war poster campaign
As soon as the first bombs dropped on Baghdad, members of the United Socialist Party (USP) in Sri Lanka (section of the CWI) got to work making more than a hundred large hand-written posters with the slogan ‘Bush, get out of Iraq! Let the Iraqi people take action!’
As darkness fell, they set out across Colombo, the capital city, to paste them up wherever they could. As dawn broke, the message made a big impact on people.
No other party has organised any such protest. Mass demonstrations have not yet taken place in Sri Lanka since US imperialism’s started its invasion. However proposals for joint action will be put forward at a meeting of Left organisations this Saturday (22 March).
Students lead the way
The discovery that the bombing of Iraq had started was met by outrage, walkouts, road blocks and demonstrations involving up to 50,000 university and school students in Barcelona yesterday (Thursday), according to press reports.
The A7 motorway to France was blocked in both directions by thousands of students who walked out of the Universitat Autnoma (UAB), following meetings in the various faculties, causing tailbacks of up to 20 kilometres in one direction. Nevertheless, reports say many of the drivers were prepared do put up with it, even peeping their horns in sympathy with the students, who were joined by some of the lecturers and other workers at the campus.
The aim of the students was apparently to walk into the centre of Barcelona, some 15 kilometres. In the end it seems only the most determined did but they were prepared with water, sugar and medical assistance in case anyone wilted!
In Barcelona the UAB students met up with students from the other Barcelona universities blocking roads and staging their own demonstrations. In waves, beginning with students from the Theology Faculty (!) they marched on the Partido Popular (PP) offices to vent their anger at Aznar and his government. Another target was the Delegaci del Govern, the Spanish government offices in the Catalan capital.
These protests were echoed in towns and cities across Catalonia and the rest of Spain. Who knows how many people took part? Hundreds of thousands? A million?
At 7.00 pm the anti-war campaign, "Aturem la guerra" (Stop the War), organised protests in the squares outside council offices. In Barcelona the Plaza Sant Jaume filled with 35,000 people, calling for an end to the bombing, in front of the Generalitat (Catalan Regional Government). They spilled into the side streets when the square filled to overflowing.
Reports say 10,000 assembled in Valencia, 4,000 in Taragona and Girona.
Today (Friday) the protests have continued. I went to a union meeting and at midday the union offices emptied as my union, the Workers Commissions, (CCOO) and the UGT organised a human chain around the Delegaci del Govern. We were joined by several hundred school students who blocked part of the road.
When I got home to Granollers, a town of 50,000, I saw on the news that school students had demonstrated in the centre during the morning. And tomorrow (Saturday) there promises to be another mega demonstration in Barcelona.
Who's organising all this? Often "Aturem La Guerra" just announce something and people turn up in droves because they see a poster, receive an e-mail or text message or a friend drags them along, showing not only their anger at this crime against the Iraqi people but the desire to do something to stop it.
The student union has called on CCOO and the UGT more than once to organise a 24-hour general strike.
Next Wednesday (26 March) the two big unions are calling a second 15-minute stoppage. While this is a step in the right direction, it is clear that a longer stoppage, properly prepared, with meetings to explain all the issues and where the anti-war movement is going, is required. This would be the way to channel this enormous anger that we see every day on the streets into a movement capable of forcing the Aznar Government to back-track or resign, as many demonstrators are demanding.
Chris Ridge in Barcelona
Biggest protests for 25 years
A total of 400,000 to 500,000 people have demonstrated during the last 3 days in Athens alone. Over 100,000 in Salonica and many tens of thousands in other Greek towns.
In Athens the rally on Thursday, started soon after the news of the war broke out. It was as big as the 15F rally, at least 150,000 people. The number of school students was stunning - it was basically a school student demo. The TUC had refused to call for a strike or a stoppage, so the number of workers was not particularly big.
The rally on Friday surpassed any other demo over the last 25 years! (with the exception of the election rallies in the 1980s which were of a different character, however). Probably around 250.000, bring to memory the rallies on the anniversary of the Polytechnic revolt in the first years after the fall of the military regime in 1974.
Saturday's (today's) rally was much smaller, as was expected, a total of 15-20 thousand between the three different rallies taking place (still there are 4 different anti-war committees in Greece!).
Our main concern in Athens was to have good contingents. We had over 300 on Thursday, about 400 on Friday and close to 300 today. This was excellent, and especially today's, because the total number of people on the demo was much, much smaller than on the previous days. We sold a good number of papers and collected a lot of fighting fund. The best thing has been recruiting new members to our party.
Andreas Payiatsos Athens