Page last updated at 16:56 GMT, Monday, 12 January 2009

Schoolchildren stage Gaza protest


The demonstration was a peaceful one

Muslim children on South Tyneside took the day off school to hold a protest over the violence in Gaza.

About 250 youngsters held a candlelit vigil outside South Shields Town Hall, before gathering in the town's Holocaust Memorial Garden on Monday.

Councillor Ahmed Khan of the Beacon and Bents ward, who organised the event, said there were no banners and the vigil was be "non-disruptive."

Northumbria police said the protest passed off without incident.

Mr Khan said schools had been informed and children would return on Tuesday.

He said: "This a symbolic protest - around a third of the victims of the violence in the Middle East are children.

Unauthorised absences

"One day they are in school and the next there are the empty places of the innocent victims.

"This will be a dignified orderly protest with no banners, flags or disruption and prayers for those who have lost their lives."

A South Tyneside Council spokesman said: "We sympathise with everyone who has concerns about the loss of life and horrific injuries on both sides of the conflict.

"However, in line with guidance from the government, we will be advising head teachers to mark the absences as unauthorised.

"We believe every lesson matters in South Tyneside. We want all of our children and young people to fulfil their potential and attendance at school gives them the best chance of doing that."

A police spokesman said the protest was orderly and no arrests were made.

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