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Police use violence against bank protests in Ireland

category ireland / britain | repression / prisoners | news report author Friday May 21, 2010 00:55author by Various - Workers Solidarity Movementauthor email wsm_ireland at yahoo dot com Report this post to the editors

Over the last couple of weeks the Irish police (Gardai) have used violence on three seperete occasions against bank protesters in Ireland. Most recently on Tuesday evening they attempted to prevent an anti-capitalist bloc called by the Workers Solidarity Movement from marching. Despite the use of horse this attempt failed. Below are reports from the WSM web site on these events written by WSM members who were present.

As the march moved away from Stephen’s Green, it was met with an aggressive and heavy handed police response. As the three hundred or so demonstators attempted to move onto the road to march to Anglo Irish Bank, Gardai on foot and horses moved in to prevent the march from commencing.

Press Release: Workers Solidarity Movement condemn Gardai tactics at tonight’s protest.

“There was a real danger of tonight’s Garda action resulting in serious injuries.” (Gregor Kerr)

The hundreds of people attending a protest called by The Workers Solidarity Movement (WSM) and Seomra Spraoi Social Centre tonight at Stephen’s Green showed the growing oppostion to NAMA and the bank bailots. WSM organised a march from Anglo Irish Bank to join the Right to Work demonstration at the Dail.

As the march moved away from Stephen’s Green, it was met with an aggressive and heavy handed police response. As the three hundred or so demonstators attempted to move onto the road to march to Anglo Irish Bank, Gardai on foot and horses moved in to prevent the march from commencing.

Gregor Kerr, a WSM spokesperson said “there was a real danger of tonight’s Garda action resulting in serious injuries. Only the discipline shown by the assembled protesters prevented the Gardai from provoking a riot. The change in Gardai tacics over the last week begs the question if this is a new government tactic to deter the growing oposition to their disastarous economic policies.”

Statement Ends

Note to Editor:- Workers Solidarity Movement (WSM) is an Irish anarchist organisation with branches in Dublin and Cork  and members in several other places around the country.  WSM members are actively involved in many community and trade union campaigns, and have been involved at local and workplace level in building opposition to the government bailout of bankers and developers

In the context of previously reported Gardai violence against bank bail out protests the WSM decided to mobilise for the Right to Work protest on May 18th and published a call for an "anti-capitalist block" on the demonstration, to assemble on Stephen's Green, a few hundred metres away from the Dail and a half an hour earlier than the scheduled time for the RTW march.  This was done for a couple of reasons - firstly because the announced starting point for the RTW march was the Dail, which was also the march's destination. Thus it seemed that a static rally with speeches from notables was to be the order of the day and these are normally felt to be fairly grim and turgid affairs to anyone who has attended a few.  Secondly because the WSM wanted to differentiate itself from the SWP-controlled RTW event and create an alternative pole of attraction for radicals.

The Right To Work campaign is an initiative of the Socialist Workers Party, an initiative in which some oppositional politicans, a few trade union leaders and a liberal media commentator or two are happy to be given a platform.  On May 11th, they organised a march to the Dail (Irish parliament) where they held a rally and listened to speeches from the afforementioned notables.  A WSM participant counted 1000 people taking part in the march (on O'Connell street). During the rally, a group of protestors attempted to enter the grounds of the parliament.  Although it is difficult to say for certain, video footage suggests that this started out as a symbolic action by a group of SWP members that escalated into a concerted pushing match between the gardai protecting the gate when a few dozen more protestors joined in spontaneously. As the gardai were losing this match due to weight of numbers, they escalated the violence of the situation and batoned the crowd, which led to an almost instant conclusion to the confrontation. 

The drama, however, lived on in the media.  The content of much of the reports bore relatively little relationship to the event ("Protestors storm Irish parliament" - Sky News "Shinners storm Dail" - Evening Herald).  The extent of the coverage and the weight accorded to it, also seemed to be somewhat out of proportion to the significance of the events.  It dominated news coverage for a couple of days and continues to elicit weighty commentary from opinion writers a week later.  Most amusingly, Fintan O'Toole, deputy editor of the Irish Times, who spoke at the rally, opined that the events meant that "the right to peaceful protest is under threat from two sides." O'Toole is probably one of the most intelligent and left-leaning commentators in the Irish media which, unfortunately, isn't hard.  His article is a good example of the incredible narrowness of political thought in this country and the awe-inspiring poverty of intellectual thought.  It is based around a sequence of assertions about the nature of protest et al, which are little more than liberal wishful thinking that are contradicted by the evidence in almost every case. In the aftermath of the skirmish at the Dail, presumably hoping to capitalise on all the media attention, the RTW campaign called for a follow up protest the following week, on the evening of Tuesday May 18th.

On the morning of Saturday May 16th, Eirigi staged a protest at Anglo Irish Bank, the institution most closely associated with the collapse of the Irish banking system, which involved a small number of activists occupying a rooftop ledge and ended with them being assaulted by the police.  This added somewhat to the sense that social discontent might be on the verge of spilling over into broader conflict. 

The WSM and Semora Spraoi callout for the anti-capitalist bloc was reasonably successful - what looked like over 200 people showed up - including banners from the Revolutionary Anarcha-Feminist Group, Seomra Spraoi, Eirigi, the IRSP, the 32 County Sovereignty Movement and a student solidarity group.  The meeting up point had a heavy police presence which, unusually, included 4 officers on horseback and a helicopter hovering overhead.  After a few speeches, the crowd started to form up to march to join the RTW protest.  The route of the march was to be only a few hundred metres long - along Stephen's Green, down Dawson Street and onto Molesworth St - and was scheduled to stop on the way at Anglo Irish Bank's headquarters.

Bizzarely, the police made a concerted attempt to stop the march leaving.  They formed a cordon of officers backed by horses along the corner of Stephen's Green and attempted to physically prevent the march from entering the road.  Why they attempted to do this is a matter of conjecture - having attended hundreds of marches - some with less than 50 people, I have never seen the police attempt to block a march from using the road in Dublin. Some of the marchers thought that it represented a provocation in the hope that the crowd would give the police an excuse to attack them, others thought that it represented an attempt to put the radicals in their place by imposing themselves upon them.  Whatever their motivation, their execution proved inept.  Within a couple of minutes the entire crowd had succeeded in pushing through them or walking around them and forming up as a march on the road.  The police were, for whatever reason, unwilling to escalate the violence to impose themselves in the face of the weight of numbers.  They spent a few more minutes attempting to block the front of the march from advancing by pushing it backwards, which was just as difficult to understand and just as ineptly executed as their first attempt.  Within a few minutes the march had walked through and around them and they gave up.  

The march continued for 100 metres of so to the HQ of Anglo Irish bank where the police formed another line to stop the crowd advancing.  This time they managed to hold the line, due mainly to the fact that nobody approached it or attempted to breach it.  The march paused for a few speeches and continued going for a few hundred further metres to join up with the RTW rally - and was greeted by Sinn Fein's Daithi Doolan on the platform with the words "everybody's welcome as long as you behave".  The RTW rally itself appeared to be of a similar size to the previous weeks march, up to a 1,000 people, mostly from left wing groups. They were there before the anti-capitalist block arrived to add a couple of hundred extra bodies.

Some songs and speeches followed as the rain came down.  As the rally dispersed, a bit of shouting and pushing occured between some police and some protestors and an egg was thrown, but this quickly petered out.

Words Chekov; Images Chekov, Kev, Freda, Aileen

Created with flickr slideshow.


Video from threeriversblue


Afternoon of the Anglo Irish Bank protest, after the arrests

About 100 people were gathered outside this infamous bank, Anglo Irish Bank, on St. Stephens green by the time I'd arrived. I had already been informed of the fact that 7 members of Eirigi had been arrested after occupying the building from early morning. The Gardai had sprung into action and decided to clear out the occupation and they'd done that with the brute force that's become a bit of a speciality over the last few years.

Now there was approximately 1 garda for about every 3 protestors. A not so thin yellow line protected this bank, which should be protected as the rock that sunk the Irish economy. Whilst other countries attempt to control unemployment and stimulate their economies back into some action – in Ireland our leaders have successfully yoked up this massive burden onto the shoulders of the working people. They've let unemployment run rampant, emigration is on the rise, savaged our public services, destroyed community services, and the responsibility of clearing up the mess is with us, the Irish people. The developers, the bankers, the politicians who thought this could never happen just load on the burden to us, to this generation, the next, and the one that follows.

In the midst of all this, a hundred people on a sunny afternoon in Dublin are here to protest that we enjoyed none of the gain of the Celtic Tiger, and we'll be damned if we are going to take all this pain so that they can put the wheels back onto Casino capitalism.

Music played, papers and leaflets were distributed to passers by. There was a fair amount of goodwill from the passing drivers and passers by. People know what is going on, and are encouraged when they see someone who is prepared to draw attention to this swindle. It was also fitting that this Nationalised Bank – had to be protected by the police. It is like they are protecting a black hole, into which the future of this rotten republic is being sucked. Music played and there were a few chants of

'Whose Cops, NAMA's Cops.'

Sean Fitzbatrick burnt outside Anglo IrishThere was a flurry of activity when the Guards decided that they were going to stop an effigy of Seanie Fitzpatrick from being burnt. The guards are so desperate to protect the bankers and their golden circle that they'll even weigh in to protect their effigy's. Thankfully they relented when they saw that it was going to be strongly resisted and into the afternoon breeze and into the nostrils of the passing tourists wafted the smell of a burning effigy of a banker.

From there a group went down to support 7 Eirigi members who were due to appear at a special hearing in the Bridewell at 4.30pm.

Roll on Tuesday's protest – let them know we are onto their game and we're not going to take it anymore, we are not going to bankroll this bail out.

Words by Dermo


Created with flickr slideshow.

Audio of part of speech

Gardai violently attack eirigi occupation of Anglo Irish bank

Gardai have again attacked campaigners protesting at the bank bailouts this time with batons and dogs. This morning around 7am four people got onto on the overhang of Anglo irish Bank and chained themselves together with a banner read that read 'People of Ireland Rise Up.' In the last half hour a force of some 50 police, secret police and dogs attacked them and their supporters on the ground with batons, fists and feet. At least six were arrested as a melee broke out on Dawson street.

The initial attack seems to have started when ten Gardai, one with a video camera, removed two of the windows frames and came out onto the ledge. They yanked the four people chained together around, a witness on the ground described how he was "afraid that someone was going to fall off the ledge, it seemed very reckless".

People outside the door of Anglo irish who had gathered to support the protesters split into two groups. One group of 15 or 20 went to the side gate on Dawson street and formed a line blocking it. When the Gardai emerged from the building they attacked this line with batons but the line held. Gardai reenforcements were summoned including a contingent of secret police and dogs. One person in the line described to this reporter how this mob of 50 or so Gardai then charged the line, fists and batons swinging and how we was knocked to the ground beneath other people as the line collapsed. As people tried to protect themselves from the Gardai attack a melee developed along Dawson street

One campaigner who has stood with the people of Erris at Rossport said "the Gardai went berserk I haven't seen anything like it since Mayo, it was pretty heavy people were being hit by batons and the Gardai were kicking people. Afterwards I heard the cops saying it was a great bit of crack."

It appears the four people on ledger were arrested as well as two or three people who had been outside. All this took place in the space of ten minutes. Inspector Gannon who led the assault on Shell to Sea campaigners at Polthomas pier in Rossport was spotted among the Gardai and witnesses reported they had the clear impression that the Gardai were acting under orders that no further protests against the bank bailouts were to be tolerated.

Up to 100 Gardai are now around Anglo Irish bank with a second protest having being called by eirigi for 14.00 today. It has been confirmed that this protest will still be going ahead as will Tuesdays protest at the Dail.

We would call on people to join the anti-capitalist block at 19.00 at the Wolfe Tone statue on Tuesday (opposite Shelbourne Hotel) where we will discuss how to best respond to the attacks on bank bailout protests before proceeding to the Dail. 

Both these protests will be covered live via the WSM twitter feed

Created with flickr slideshow.

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