Protestors Bunk School, Lay Siege to Downing Street

LONDON – School children chanting “No war for oil” staged a rowdy sit-in outside Tony Blair’s official residence Wednesday, warning the prime minister that one day soon they would be voters.

The protest by the students — mostly aged 13 to 16 — appeared to catch security at No. 10 Downing St. by surprise and overshadowed the presentation of a petition by poets against the war. Extra police were brought in to control the protesters when some attempted to scale the gates.

“We don’t mean anything to Blair because we can’t vote. But we will be able to soon, and he will pay the price for a war in Iraq” said Emma Marriott, 16, from behind hastily erected barricades.

In Britain, where the voting age is 18, polls have shown that most people oppose a U.S.-led war against Iraq without another U.N. resolution approving it. Blair’s strong support for U.S. President George W. Bush’s position on Iraq has often seen Blair portrayed as Bush’s poodle.

Anti-war protests, many of them including students of all ages, also took place on Wednesday in the United States, France, Egypt, Bangladesh, Sweden, Spain, Australia, Switzerland and Senegal.

In France, one of several European countries trying to block any attempt to get U.N. approval for war against Iraq, 7,000 students, politicians and others marched through Paris in an anti-war protest.

In Britain, thousands of children walked out of schools across the country to take part in a national day of action, organized by students largely by e-mail and leaflet distribution.

In London, hundreds of demonstrators, some wearing school uniforms, blocked a section of Parliament Square before a breakaway group of around 200 headed down Whitehall to 10 Downing St.

There, the students rattled the gates and threw banners over, chanting “Yankee doodle Tony Blair,” before police reinforcements arrived. The street was closed and the students were moved, a few dragged away, by officers on foot and horseback to the other side of the road, where the protest continued.

The protest took attention away from the presentation of a petition of 10,000 poems opposed to the war.

In Bangladesh, thousands of people, including students, professionals and politicians, held marches and burnt effigies of Bush, carrying bamboo and paper placards with slogans like “War, No. Peace, Yes.”

In Sweden, about 5,000 students gathered for a peaceful rally in Stockholm before marching through the city with banners reading “Stop the War,” and “Fight U.S. Imperialism.”

Also Wednesday, half a million Egyptians took part in a state-orchestrated demonstration against war in Iraq, with thousands of workers bused in to Cairo from various public companies.