Giving it a go

On Friday March 7 several hundred school students walked out of Blatchington Mill school in Hove, Sussex, in an anti-war protest. Five were suspended for two months - they can only return for their GCSE exams. The Weekly Worker spoke to two of them

How did the protest begin? Ross Garwood: It just got round the school. Kids in my year organised amongst themselves and I got caught up in it all. It spread by word of mouth and using mobile telephones. For a while I thought it wasn't going to happen, but then we saw a load of kids walking down the field. Half the school wanted to walk out. The teachers tried to stop them. They were blocking the gate saying, "You're going to get suspended", and some of the younger ones were deterred. But there must have been 200-300 outside the school. One boy had a union jack with the Iraqi flag on the other side. It was just to say, everyone's against the war. Luke Lamper: I heard about it at break time. Mr Hunter, the headteacher, wanted us to sign a petition instead of walking out. One teacher was saying, "There's no point - it's not going to happen. There's not enough of you." But, just as he said that, 200-300 started walking out. It shows, anything can happen. The teachers were chasing them down the road. Some came back, but others got out through different exits. People were shouting, "No war, no war!" They had flags and whistles. About 100 of us stayed together, marching up and down the road. The teachers followed. They called the police and there were police cars and dogs everywhere. What are your feelings about the war? RG: There should be no war. Why won't Blair listen? What he says goes, but everyone should have their say. There should be one massive vote - should we go to war or not? At my age not many people are bothered about having the vote. They don't know what it's about. But if when you're 16 you want to vote, you should be able to. The headteacher has said that you were suspended only because of previous "disruptive behaviour". RG: It's kind of true. They picked on us because of our history - we've all been suspended before. They said we were troublemakers, but we didn't organise the walkout - everyone organised it themselves. I've not been in any trouble this year before this - I've been trying to get on with my work. LL: I haven't got the best of history. But we've been chucked out for a totally different reason. Only five out of 200-300 is unfair. What effect will all this have? RG: I reckon I won't be hit too badly, but it's messing up our education. I'm missing out, because you do learn some stuff at school. But we'll only be allowed back for two to three weeks to sit our GCSEs. LL: I probably won't do very well. I've got nothing to look at. All my books are at school and they won't let us back. So was it worth it? RG: Yes, because quite a lot of people seemed to know what it was all about. We made them think. But I don't know whether I'll carry on protesting, because it's getting a bit much. It depends if everyone else does - it's your own decision. We didn't mean for it to become that big - getting phone calls about it and that. LL: Yes, it was worth it in a way. I've suffered a bit, being excluded until the exams start, but I wasn't doing that well anyway. Now I've been phoned up about getting involved in more action against the war. Some people say that some kids did it just to get out of school. RG: Quite a lot did it to get out of lessons and quite a lot because they were against the war. To be honest, in the beginning I was in it to get off school, but after a while I was thinking about the actual war. LL: Half did it to bunk off school, but the rest did it to make a stand. To show that we need to have a say too. Maybe there weren't enough people, but at least we gave it a go.