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Anti War protesters climb a fountain in Hyde Park in Sydney, Australia. 20,000 school children marched through the streets to congregate in Hyde Park in protest of the War on Iraq. (Getty Images)...






Anti-war school children battle police

By Michael Christie

SYDNEY (Reuters) - School children have battled police in central Sydney in a passionate protest against the war on Iraq, hurling bottles, plastic chairs, fireworks and paint-filled eggs.

At least 18 were arrested -- wrestled to the ground by riot police, manacled with plastic handcuffs and bundled into vans during the five-hour demonstration on Wednesday by about 2,000 students.

A police spokeswoman said 11 faced unspecified charges and the others warnings. She did not know their ages but reporters said they saw children as young as 13 being detained.

Four police were injured in the riot, which broke out as the rally began at the town hall of Australia's largest city. Some grabbed cafe chairs and pelted police. Others lobbed bottles.

Rattling tambourines and beating drums, the children, many in school uniform, then ran screaming through the city centre chanting "No War - No War" and carrying banners like: "We are ready to fight, world peace is our right".

They left a trail of anti-war graffiti and the glass front of at least one street billboard was shattered.

Later, some fought skirmishes with mounted and riot police after they were penned in behind walls of police in front of Prime Minister John Howard's Sydney office.

In other cities around Australia, students also skipped school to oppose their government's decision to send 2,000 special forces, sailors and jet pilots to Iraq.


It was unclear why the Sydney rally turned into a riot. Some students said police refused to allow them to march. Others said it was the arrest of a young girl that sparked the violence.

Police blamed a small group of Middle Eastern youths.

"It shouldn't be violent but what are we going to do?" said 15-year-old Hajir, her T-shirt saying: "Make Chocolate, Not War."

Some students, who also participated in a raucous but non-violent "Books not Bombs" rally by school children in Sydney earlier this month, were embarrassed at the violence.

"We came here for peace not to start a war," said Sian Parslow, 17.

Once the march reached Howard's office, the police bottled them in, further angering the students. They were eventually allowed to trickle out in small groups and head home to their parents.

Around 30,000 mainly adult anti-war protesters marched through Sydney on Sunday. Polls have shown that support among Australians for the U.S.-led war against Iraq has been growing.

In Melbourne on Wednesday, around 5,000 student protesters gathered, burning U.S. flags and staging sit-ins.

One person was arrested in Brisbane during a rowdy anti-war march of more than 500 university and high school students.

In Adelaide, 800 students picketed the Advertiser newspaper, which they accused of being pro-war. The Advertiser belongs to media magnate Rupert Murdoch, who has publicly backed the strikes on Iraq.

Student protests also took place in neighbouring Indonesia.

Around 200 rallied in front of the U.S. embassy in Jakarta while 50 members of a Christian student group dressed in black protested near the United Nations' office carrying a banner which said "U.N. = useless."

Demonstrators splashed red paint on an American Express office building in Jakarta while another group threw tomatoes at the U.S. Consulate General's office in Surabaya, east Java.

Protestors clash with police in Sydney 26 Mar 2003 

Thousands of Australian anti-war protesters, many of them students in school uniforms, pelted Sydney police with bottles and chairs grabbed from cafes today, and then hurled more bottles outside the office of Prime Minister John Howard.

The protest was the most violent yet against Australia's involvement in coalition attacks on Iraq.

Some of the demonstrators said they were as young as 10 years old.

Police in riot gear arrested at least 45 people, and one officer was slightly injured when an object thrown by the protesters hit him on the head.

The violence broke out after two separate groups of protesters merged outside Sydney's Town Hall and then streamed to the city's Hyde Park, where they chanted anti-war slogans and taunted police.

Students clambered into a fountain in the park and hung a banner proclaiming "Books not bombs".

The protesters later headed to Howard's Sydney office, where they again began hurling bottles at police. At least one protester, who suffered a gashed face, was injured.

Some of the protesters said they were appalled that violence had broken out during the demonstration.

Earlier, hundreds of protesters burned American flags, set off firecrackers and chanted "No war!" in a noisy demonstration close to the US Consulate.

In Melbourne, Australia's second-largest city, more than 1,500 rowdy students marched through the central business district protesting against the war.

At one point, mounted police had to force their way through a small group of students staging a sit-in on the road.

In the southern city of Adelaide, about 800 students carrying banners and chanting anti-war messages marched down the city's main street, disrupting traffic.

The Australian government's decision to send 2,000 troops to fight with coalition forces in Iraq has sparked mass demonstrations in recent weeks, with hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets on one weekend earlier this month.

Until today, all the protests had been peaceful.


How can we manifest peace on earth if we do not include everyone (all races, all nations, all religions, both sexes) in our vision of Peace?

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