Mass actions across the country as war breaks out

Report by Stop the War Coalition
Published: 21/03/03

Union walk-outs, school strikes, university actions, town and city centre demonstrations on 20 March 2003


Throughout the day several thousand school and university students together with trade unionists and others demonstrated in Parliament Square in Whitehall. All streets and roads around Westminster and Whitehall were blocked throughout the day. Westminster Bridge was closed.

UNION WALK-OUTS (if not stated, assume lunchtime walk-outs)

Stevenage - NUT

Watford - TSSA

Luton - UNISON at the Town Hall

Manchester - 50 PCS members from the Equal opportunities commission walked out at lunchtime and held an hours shortage. 20 healthworkers demonstrated at lunchtime at North Manchester General Hospital.

Bristol - The Central Library in Bristol was partially closed when over half of its staff walked out at 6pm to join the protest on the Centre

Preston - CWU at the sorting office

Birmingham - CWU at Aston sorting office and Sutton Colefield, GMB BMA staff, PCS at BA Selly Oak and Ravenscroft, UNISON at UNISON Health, Selly Oak Hospital, Queen Elizabeth, Heartland’s Hospital, City Hospital, Lancaster Circus, Council House, Yardley Social Workers, Haymill Social Services, Cotteridge Environmental Health, Central Library, Birmingham Museum, Phoenix training office

Exeter - CWU sorting office, PCS at DWP/Job Centre/BA, UNISON at the town hall

Stoke Newington - Council and education staff at the town hall lunchtime protest

Leeds - Council workers in Morley lunchtime walk-out, CWU in Huddersfield, Batley, RMT at Leeds station, UNISON at Leeds town hall, PCS at DWP, Inland Revenue, BA,

RMT, Bristol station, TGWU, Bus workers, UNISON, Bath, Gloucester, Cheltenham, Forest of Dean

Leicester - GMB Building Industries Association, NUT supporting rally, UNISON city council.

Merseyside - PCS at DWP Liverpool, Liverpool BA, Toxteth BA, Wallesley BA, Bootle BA, RMT at Liverpool station, TGWU at Vauxhall, Bogan carpets, Halewood T&G;, Wirral factory T&G;, UNISON social services, Millenium House, Train 2000 (office temps), Olive Monnet (social services), ASLEF Merseyside, AMICUS Vauxhall

Sheffield - UNISON at Sheffield Town Hall, probation service, housing dept.

Waltham Forest - FBU Ilford, UNISON Ilford Social services

Hayes - 4 employees Box Global distribution,

Bexhill on Sea - James McCarthy, own business shut today

Swansea - UNISON Gorfeinon Social services


UNISON at Greenwich Council & Lewisham Council, Mile End Hospital, Tower Hamlets branch (lunchtime walk-out, allowed to use flexi time etc.), Guildhall, Newham branch, QMC, Ealing Council workers, Hammersmith Council workers

PCS at DWP and British Library (rally Tavistock Sq), PCS at DEFRA, Home Office, DWP, John Prescott’s office, PCS East London branch 12 offices, public records office

Westminster UNISON Westminster City Council lunchtime walk out

GMB at the Labour Research Dept rally at Southbank, 24 hour strike

RMT Acton lunchtime meeting

Tower Hamlets law centre closed at lunchtime, staff to attend Parliament Sq

Stop Over, firm in SE London

Digital Heaven, 20 walked out

Enfield Civic Centre, lunchtime walk out


Edinburgh - CWU at the sorting office, PCS at DMP/BA and Scottish Office, TGWU, UNISON at the town hall

Aberdeen - TGWU and UNISON at the Town Hall

Glasgow - TGWU & UNISON East of Glasgow Social Services

Fife - GMB at the council

EIS at Coatshead Bridge FE college

Paisley - TGWU & UNISON

East Renfrewshire - UNISON

Inverclyde - UNISON

Dumbarton - UNISON social workers

Many who will be sacked on taking strike action are lighting candles in work to form a vigil against the war


Teacher support:

65 teachers at Copland School in Wembley walked out for the last lesson

NUT at Arthur Terry school

NATFHE at Preston FE and Pendal FE colleges

NUT at Beeston Comprehensive

NATFHE and AUT at Bristol City FE college

NUT at Neston High School, Wallesley High School

NUT at Forest Hill School & Sydnham school, St. Paul’s Way School

NUT at Ducie High School/Oakwood

Up to a thousand school kids were holding a demonstration inside school grounds in St Dunstan’s School Glastonbury - supported by the school authorities who even called the local media to come and film the event.

At least 100 students at St Boniface School in Plymouth face being suspended after a protest on the Hoe and in the city centre.

Up to 200 pupils at Helena Romanes School and Sixth Form Centre in Dunmow, Essex, staged a peaceful protest outside the school gates this morning

Pupils from Priory High School in Exeter, who joined a demonstration in the city centre said they had been given permission to take part by their parents.

School students from Parrs Wood school in Didsbury, Manchester joined the student march

Glebelands School, Cranleigh, Surrey

Broadlands School, Keynsham, Bristol

QEHS School, Hexham, Northumberland

Hundreds of schoolkids walked out from Priory, West Exeter, St Peter’s school and others

500 kids walked out of lessons from Clyst Vale school, Devon and held a protest meeting outside that went on all day

Queen Elizabeth Community Comprehensive Upper School, Crediton, Devon

Tiverton, Devon 200 schoolkids walked out from Ivybridge school, Devon and marched through the town

20 pupils at Cape Cornwall School in St Just, near Penzance, were suspended after joining a march on Wednesday.

Taunton, Somerset

Minehead, Somerset

Kingsmead School, Wiveliscombe, Somerset

Wellington, Somerset

Morley, Leeds

Broadlands School, Keynsham, Bristol

126 students at Hazelwick School, Crawley

300 school students at Helena Ramanha school, Great Dunlow, Essex

200 students at Farnborough FE college are occupying the canteen

Thomas Hardy School, Dorchester (despite threats from school board) The headmaster gave them the day off to protest

Mearns Castle High School, Glasgow walk out by 250 third year pupils against war in Iraq. Tried to converge on Eastwood council but were stopped.

Eskdale Middle School and Whitby Community College walking out at 3. 30pm.

Around 60 school student walked out of Anderson High School, Lerwick, today,

20 March 2003 at 12 noon to protest against war in Iraq. The students marched to the town centre, and from there to the harbour where they picketed a Royal Navy minesweeper.

pupils at Shenley Brook End School staged their own spontaneous protest after morning break at 11 o’clock. Instead of going back to lessons pupils assembled in the “Street“ (as the school’s common area is called) where they remained for 10 minutes until the protest was broken up by teachers.

Pupils at Limavady in Northern Ireland walked out of lessons

students from at least three schools in Bedford who had staged a walkout to synchronise with the demo

Brynteg School, Bridgend held a successful demonstration, leaving lessions to march around the town.

80 students plus a dozen teachers from two local comprehensives and a college staged a march around Abingdon town centre

350 school and sixth form kids sat outside the front of their school in a quite leafy suburb in surrey. School children walk out of their classes and stop traffic in City Centre and Tyne Bridge in the morning.

Pupils from Oathall Community College, Haywards Heath, West Sussex blocked the A272. Students at three other local schools were locked in by staff.

Dozens of students in Wigan walked out, sparked by one student’s stand.

200 schoolkids walked out of Caldew school Dalston at morning break, taking police by surprise. More than 500 ie about half the school - walked out of William Howard, Brampton, into town and held a minute’s silence. Both were totally self-organised.

Students at John Barrow School, Barrow were forced to climb an 8 ft fence to get out of their school after the headmaster locked them in. They occupied the town hall and handcuffed themselves to the gates.

100-150 students from Clifton school demonstrated against the war in Rotherham town centre in the evening

200 school-students walked out of classes in York and occupied a roundabout in the centre.

30 students in Swindon walked out to join the march

300 12-15 year olds left 3 schools in Edinburgh and were blocked from reaching the American Consulate by police after attempting to occupy Edinburgh Castle.

Cardinal Newman School in Preston saw a walk-out

Pupils from Our Ladies and Girls’ Grammar Schools Lancaster joined protests

Students in Plymouth walked out despite staff changing break times and locking doors to attempt to stop students joining protests.

Around 200 11-to-16 year olds from the Caldew School in Dalston marched into the centre of the village chanting anti-war slogans.


Christ’s College 6th Form - Finchley

200 at Acland Burley School, Tufnell Park

200 from Stepney School, Mile End

Hundreds of staff and students at Tower Hamlets College marched to Mile End.

Walthamstow Central is blocked - walk outs by Kelmscott school,

Walthamstow School for Girls and 2 6th form colleges. Over 400 school kids in Walthamstow blocked traffic.

400 students out at Fortismere School, Muswell Hill, marched up Broadway and blocked traffic up to Highgate Tube. Also students from Alexandra Park school walked out.

Police were called to pen students in at Charles Edward Brook school in Lambeth after they started shouting anti-war slogans.

Pupils of Villiers High School in Southall, London organised protest and walked out of school. Up to 300 pupils took part and as a result many have been suspended.

Staff and students from schools in North East London - Northumberland Park, Gladesmore and William C. Harvey walked out.

The North London 6th forms William Ellis, Parliament Hill, Acland Burghley and La sainte union marched to Parliament

Gunnersbury Catholic School in West London saw a spontaneous protest by 200 pupils, 50 of whom joined the protest at Parliament Square.

In Nottinghamshire, more than 100 pupils walked out of lessons at West Bridgford School to stage a demonstration on a nearby playing field


Swansea - Cwmtawe Comprehensive School, Pontardawe

Newtown High School 1/2 hour protest - children have been threatened with two week suspension if they join the protest

Llanidloes High School, walk out in face of opposition by senior staff

Around 100 pupils walked out of Llandrindod Wells High School, In Powys, Wales and held a rally at the war memorial

Mass walkouts in Gowerton, Llanelli and Bridgend each involved a hundred or more students.

12-15 Llanelli students were arrested.

In Olcfha school the gates were firmly shut in an attempt to stop a repeat of Wednesdays action. Instead the school students held a sit in and refused to attend lessons.


Queen Mary and Westfield, Uni of London, Tower Hamlets, protest at Mile End, Stepney

Salford University, Manchester - The Crescent blocked twice

At Manchester Metropolitan University, 80 staff and 150 students rallied and marched to Albert Square. 100s of students from Manchester Uni have walked out of lectures and blocked traffic on Oxford Road, a busy main road out of

Manchester AUT and UNISON at Manchester University walked out at 1pm to join the student rally.

Essex Uni students binned Daily Mail and Sun copies in the campus shop.

Students are striking today.

Southampton Uni

At Stirling university about 1, 500 staff/students walked out of lectures, then 500 marched to Stirling centre.

North West London College sites at Willesden, Wembley, Kilburn, classes closed, staff walked out to a protest given paid time off, more than 1000 staff and students at Willesden, most walked out to Westminster

London Met Uni and City & Islington College walk-out in Highbury and Holloway Road, several hundred marched to Islington Town Hall.

Students in Oxford are planning to occupy the town centre

Students at Keele Uni blocked the main entrance to the campus as lecturers arrived for work, before being dispersed by campus security. Students and staff later staged a protest today in which they went to their cars at midday and blew their car honrs for five minutes.

Cambridge University students have blocked the traffic along with 400 people at the war memorial, and 50 students have occupied the army recruitment centre.

600 students walked out of Westminster Kingsway College to join central London protests

Students including the Welfare Officer of Lampeter Uni, Wales joined a protest in the town centre

More than 400 staff and students demonstrated outside the College of North East London against the war on Iraq.

Anti War University students at Swansea Uni invaded large lectures on Thursday morning and asked for a vote on the war before asking people to walk out and join them. They found in every lecture at least two thirds were against the war.

Staff and students at Bradford Coillege walked out at midday yesterday to join protests at the outbreak of war. Around 25 lecturers in Natfhe and a hundred students marched from college sites into Bradford’s Centenary square

Lecturers at Swansea University spent the morning leafleting against the war

Lecturers in Neath College held a rally outside the college gates

Barnsley College NATFHE members held a dinnertime protest rally

At the University of Gloucestershire in Cheltenham up to 100 NATFHE members and students walked out of lectures at 12 Noon, including a group of students who had been given the go-ahead by their Women’s Studies lecturer and another lecturer led two-thirds of her Social Work students out.

Protest were also held by:

NATFHE at Handsworth College and East Birmingham College

AUT at Exeter University

NATFHE at Leeds Metropolitan Uni

Fircroft College of Adult Education, NATFHE

AUT, Bristol University lunchtime walk-out

NATFHE, UNISON, Bristol University, University of the West of England

UNISON Leicester uni

Liverpool UNISON, AUT John Moore Uni

AUT at Liverpool University

NATFHE at Sheffield Uni, Sheffield Hallam

NATFHE at Greenfield College & Goldsmith’s, Tower Hamlet’s College,

Guildhall, UEL, East Ham College

SOAS and UCL lecturers (AUT)

NATFHE at Southwark College


Altogether around 500 assembled in Albert square in Manchester at lunchtime. 2000 people including uni students, school students, council workers and lecturers marched round Manchester city centre, closing major road junctions. A rally took place in Manchester’s Picadilly Gardens, drawing over 5, 000 people

About 300 people of all ages, brought traffic, in Cardiff city centre to a standstill by sitting and doing a ‘die in’ the main road for over 2 hours. In the words of the police, the demo had made its point, by causing major traffic chaos

City of Bristol College students have led protests of 1000 people through the centre. Crowds pushed through police lines and the M32 was blockaded.

Brighton was brought to a standstill with people massing in the centre and marching and then sitting in main roads, causing traffic chaos - with at least 3 vans of police unable to prevent demonstrators moving around to cause maximum disruption. Over 1, 000 protested with some occupying the Town Hall. Police used CS sprays after a dozen protesters forced their way into the town hall.

300 people protested in Bedford town centre

Over 200 people demonstrated in Lincoln for 2 hours this evening

Demonstration in centre of Salisbury stopped traffic

100s demonstrated outside Slough town hall

100 blocked rush hour traffic in Barnsley

20 blockaded Dover docks.

4 stopped the West Coast Main Line in Cumbria for half an hour, at the expense of being punched in the face by the driver.

200 held a protest at the main roundabout in Carlisle.

1000 people marched through Swansea’s streets for 2 hours. 200 protesters staged sit-down actions at major road junctions.

1200 people demonstrated in Exeter, including Iraqis. School kids blocked the main road bridge over the River Exe, to which the police responded by punching them, one in the face. The Tax Office was occupied for 45 minutes as a protest that 3. 5 billion of our taxes are being used to fund this illegal war.

100 people gathered in the centre of Wigan this evening to protest the war

70 protested in Barnstaple, Devon and have set up a Peace Camp in the middle of a roundabout

Protester brought traffic to a standstill in Bournemouth

After a short rally in the square, protestors broke off for two marches around York. Two of York’s three bridges were occupied.

1200 people assembled on Coventry cathedral steps and marched around the city blocking roads

A hundred people in Croydon rallied in Queen’s Gardens, with a blockade of the roundabout nearby

Over 150 people gathered on the Millennium Bridge, on London’s South Bank, including workers from the Labour Research Department, who had taken a day’s strike action in protest against the war. They draped a 50 foot banner over the bridge.

Up to 200 Leeds Council Workers walked out of city centre offices for a rally in Millennium Square to join hundreds more marching through the city.

Demonstrations near the Thornbury roundabout in Bradford and on Wellington Road in Leeds caused massive tailbacks and blocked the main routes into the cities caused the closure of the A58 - one of the main routes into the city - and the eastbound carriageway of the M621 at junction 2

100 people met at Cenotaph in Swindon town centre, leading to a march round the town centre, culminating in a 2 hour occupation of the council offices.

300 people protested against the war in Bolton on Thursday night.

300 marched through Cheltenham, forcing the police to close the streets.

1000 rallied in Preston

200 blockaded an Esso garage in Plymouth

In Portsmouth protestors sat down in the road at roundabouts, blocking access to the City from the west. Police then closed the M275 (the major route into Portsmouth) north of the City as it had gridlocked. It remained closed until later in the evening and demonstrators took their protest to Whale Island, a major navy base.

1000 blocked Oxford city centre including Carfax and bridges in the south

There were two separate demonstrations in Belfast with more than 1, 000 students and schoolchildren mounting a sit-down protest, blocking the road outside Queen’s University.

Demonstrations against war raged through Sheffield for 9 hours today, there were multiple sit-down protests, the main roundabout into Sheffield from the M1 was occupied 3 times, petrol stations, the local BBC office and the police HQ were targeted by protestors.

50 anti-war protesters blockaded the entrance the main Esso garage in Yeovil.

In Newcastle upon Tyne a crowd of up to 250 trade unionists, council workers, and university students gathered in the city centre with anti-war demonstrators, bringing traffic to a halt.

Protesters rallied in Jersey’s St Helier’s Royal Square

Hundreds blocked downtown Birmingham - health workers walked out of 4 hospitals

In Reading the Labour Party South-East Regional HQ was occupied.

800 marched to the war memorial in Cambridge, where 400 blocked traffic and 50 occupied the army recruitment centre. After several arrests the protesters picketed the police station.


1000 people held a sit-down protest and march that paralysed traffic in Glasgow. The crowd took control over traffic at the whole Charing X interchange up till midnight, with a peace camp parked in a yellow junction box.

The High Street in Forres, Morray, Scotland and the village of Ullapool in the Scottish Highlands both saw rallies

1000 school students, college students and council workers in Dundee occupied main crossroads and blocked Tay Bridge.

A march and Esso blockade was held in Halifax.

150 demonstrators picketed the Labour offices in Dumbarton to express their disgust.