Hundreds of school students across Sydney skipped school to march in solidarity for Palestine on Friday afternoon.
Echoes calling for an end to the bombardment of Gaza and 'free Palestine' were chanted, whooped, and cheered in Sydney's Town Hall.
High Schoolers For Palestine, the event organisers, encouraged students to walk out of class across Sydney, Wollongong, and Byron Bay to show support.
Year 12 student and rally organiser Eva addressed the crowd, saying everyone had a moral duty to stand up for the children of Gaza.
"We're not going to stand for this," she said.
"High school students in Gaza right now can't go to school, can't get an education."
"As students, we have a moral duty to stand up for Palestine."
Kendrick, a kindergartener, said he came to the protest with his mum and best friend to support Palestine and wanted "to end the war".
"Everyone in Palestine is dying, and I want everybody to scream [so loud] so Palestine can hear it," he said.
The protest came amidst criticisms of the strike issued by politicians, including NSW Premier Chris Minns and state Education Minister Prue Carr, who said going to a protest was "not a reason to be wagging today".
"One of the most important ways you can change the world is to get an education," Ms Carr said.
"You will be marked absent if you go to the protest; it's not a reason to be wagging school today."
"You need to go to school."
But students laughed at the minister's comments, saying it was "hypocrisy", with year 12 student Sarah saying it was important to stand up.
"School is not the only way to get educated," Sarah told Education Review.
"We have our history books from parents and people around us, rather than our governments telling us."
Noura, a fellow organiser, also hit back at the NSW Premier in her speech to the crowd.
"I'd ask him to take his own damn advice," she said.
"Get educated, Chris Minns."
"We are standing for the children of Gaza who are being slaughtered in their thousands, where schools have been shut down."
Teachers also joined the protest with science teacher Shabeen Siddiq chaperoning students from her school.
Ms Siddiq told Education Review the government's response was "bogus".
"Student's education is not dictated by curriculum or syllabuses," Ms Siddiq said.
"We're taught to bring real-life values into our classrooms – this is the best way to do it."
"If kids cannot vocalise and be told that their opinion matters, then what are we trying to educate them on?"
Concerns were raised by various organisations regarding the impact of these demonstrations.
Executive Council of Australian Jewry said these protests were causing damage and the students were being used.
“We absolutely condemn the cynical recruitment of children to this extremist agenda,” co-chief executive Alex Ryvchin told news.com.au.
“This may be presented as a spontaneous initiative led by idealistic high school kids, but we know this is the latest stunt by hardened anti-Israel activists to advance their propaganda campaign.”
“We are deeply concerned for the welfare of Jewish students and teachers and what awaits them when their peers, filled with racist slogans and violent chants, return to their classrooms.”Do you have an idea for a story?
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