Lord mayor Robert Doyle has blasted the actions of a 15-year-old schoolgirl at the centre of a rowdy Melbourne student protest, but she has drawn praise from her supporters.
University students furious at the Abbott government’s planned changes to higher education burnt a copy of the budget and staged a sit-in protest outside Victoria’s Parliament House, bringing the city to a standstill on Wednesday.
About 20 students who refused to leave the Spring Street tram tracks formed a ring around a schoolgirl who had joined them.
The girl, who identified herself as Tallulah, was dressed in her Camberwell High School uniform and was carried off the tracks by police.
“She made it quite clear she didn’t want to get up,” said Sam Castro, co-founder of a WikiLeaks support group, who had been sitting in the same ring of protesters.
Cr Doyle said the girl should not have been involved in such a disruption.
“I never like it when I see children protesting in that way,” he told Fairfax’s Radio 3AW on Thursday.
“Who likes seeing a schoolgirl being dragged away from a protest by police officers?” he said.
But the teenager attracted support from a school alumnus, who stated he was “proud” of her actions.
“The age of the ‘aging [sic] generation’ overpowering the ideals, education, and needs of the modern generation is upon us,” Camberwell alumnus Ben Howe wrote on the high school’s Facebook page. “Once again, very proud.”
The National Union of Students, which organised the protest, also expressed support.
“We are more than happy to see high school students getting involved,” said union president Deanna Taylor.
The teenage girl returned to the classroom on Thursday morning and has so far escaped school punishment for her actions, said Camberwell High School assistant principal Maureen Salter.
“We didn’t have permission for her to be absent, so obviously we’ll talk with her parents and get further information from them,” she said.
Ms Salter said the school had concerns for the girl’s wellbeing. It was not known if she was accompanied by a parent or guardian, she said.
“They’re under our care during the school day,” she said.
“As far as I’m aware, she went down there because she wanted to express her own opinion.”
Another teenage girl, who appeared to be dressed in a uniform for the Star of the Sea College Brighton, was dragged away by police.
The school had no comment when contacted on Thursday.
Leading Senior Constable Paul Turner, a spokesman for Victoria Police, said officers were “surprised” to see the protesters were so young.
“In fact, one protesters’ parents turned up and took her home,” he said.
A total of 20 people, including three teenage girls, had been arrested at the protest.
All of them are expected to be charged on summons for obstructing a roadway or footpath.
University students and their supporters vowed to organise more protests in the coming months.
With Jane Lee and Rania Spooner
This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.