UK: Some reactions to the war (1)

Support our work: become a Friend of Statewatch from as little as £1/€1 per month.

On Wednesday 21 March, the day described as "a day of shame" by several thousand teenage students who walked out of their classrooms to lead a protest outside the Houses of Parliament against Tony Blair's support for the invasion of Iraq. Many of the students took part in a rolling sit-down protest, blocking traffic and creating chaos at the heart of the government's administrative centre, (the Foreign Office, the Treasury and the Home Office are among the government buildings clustered around Parliament Square).

The demonstration was good natured with a number of rolling sit-down's designed to halt traffic, that seemed to bemuse and confuse the Metropolitan Police's attempts to restrain the teenage demonstrators. Their protests, which had seen the Met struggle to keep pace with the regrouping children, eventually came to rest at a major crossroads as their numbers were reinforced by new arrivals.

Having established a presence at the Parliament Square, Parliament Street, Bridge Street intersection groups of protesters attempted to link-up with demonstrators in other parts of central London by taking to the sidestreets. As police numbers became stretched so did their tolerance. After another attempt to break through police cordons into the streets surrounding the square, a small group of police officers launched a baton assault targeted on a small group of Bangladeshi schoolchildren. A number of children were filmed before being targeted by snatch-squads but, at this point most of them seemed to have been briefly detained and immediately released. The atmosphere was electric as shocked children screamed their disapproval and adults expressed their astonishment at the treatment of the schoolchildren.

Many adults assumed the police would want to allow the situation to return to the lively, but peaceful carnival that preceded the skirmish. For an hour or so, this was the case but when a group of a hundred or so youths, including some Bangaldeshi students, broke through police lines at Great George Street a number of officers again lashed out. Within 30 seconds they were joined by more officers who blocked the street, isolating a small number of the students from their colleagues, and sending snatch squads into the main body of demonstrators. Clashes ensued as teenagers attempted to prevent their mates from being snatched and police lashed out with their extendable batons. Youths reponded by lobbing plastic bottles, leaflets, bits of wood and the odd soft drink can.

After the Met's attack a number of young men were detained, some of whom were injured in the scuffles; others have alleged that they were beaten up. Eyewitness saw several of the young men receiving truncheon blows to the head, as well as other parts of the body; a number of people received bloody wounds. One police officer was also cut after receiving a blow to the head from a missile. After the situation dispersed, lawyers desperately attempted to locate where the children were being held, but as they had been dispersed to police stations across London it was several hours before their families could be reassured. While a number of the schoolchildren were clearly traumatised by events, many remain resolute, saying that they will not be intimidated and will mobilise their friends to attend the weekend's march and rally against the Iraq war.

Filed by Statewatch reporter

Human Rights Commission condemns attack on Iraq as an abuse of human rights (press release 21.3.03)


The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, exercising its statutory duty to advise the Secretary of State as to the measures which ought to be taken to protect human rights, today advised Mr Paul Murphy that in the Commission's view the launching of a military attack by the United Kingdom against Iraq, without the support of the UN's Security Council, is a violation of international law and a ver

Our work is only possible with your support.
Become a Friend of Statewatch from as little as £1/€1 per month.


Spotted an error? If you've spotted a problem with this page, just click once to let us know.

Report error