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(en) Irland, Dublin Grassroots Press Statement about Mayday

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sun, 2 May 2004 17:32:11 +0200 (CEST)


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Banned Farmleigh March Went Ahead - Police command decided to
attack crowd Last night’s “Bring the Noise” march to Farmleigh
demonstrated two things. Firstly, many people really do care
about the freedom of assembly and opinion and for a different
kind of Europe. After a month of hate speech from the security
forces and sections of the media, after riot police had been
placed at our assembly point with instructions to prevent people
demonstrating, after our friends had been arrested, harassed on
the street, our venues raided by the police, it was not an easy
choice to walk, with only our own bodies, between lines of
police knowing that off in the wings were the riot squads, the
army and all the other threats they have used against us.
And yet people marched. Between three and five thousand of us
made the long trek on foot up the Navan Road for two hours at
the end of an exhausting day. Some friends even came with their
children; some came despite being pregnant or partially
disabled; some people came from far outside the EU. And they did
get to the walls of the Phoenix Park. The Park that was closed
to prevent embarrassment to the Government. They did make the
noise. And we believe our voices will be heard.

Secondly, we have been saying for weeks that the state and
sections of the media were advertising a riot. It did not come
to that; but it was within a hair’s breadth, and it is lucky
that no more people were hurt given the policing decisions that
were taken and the levels of tension. No doubt the Minister for
Justice needed trouble and arrests to justify his multi-million
euro operation. And perhaps the Government also has some
grievances over the way their multi-million euro PR event lost
pride of place to people working in their free time with a
budget of a few thousand euro.

So what happened? We reached Ashtown Roundabout, within shouting
distance of the Phoenix Park. There was a line of uniformed
policemen, and some people walked right up to those lines. After
weeks of government intimidation and scare stories in the press,
both protestors and police were tense and expecting trouble.
There was some isolated pushing and shoving, and some cans and
bottles were thrown.

We want to note that undercover policemen were present among the
protestors at the front, making comments like "you have a stick
(a bamboo cane for holding flags), why not use it?" or telling
people to push onwards. And it did not help that there were
dozens of cameras and microphones up at the front, focussing
attention on anyone willing to face the police.

At this point a group came up with a banner. A command decision
was clearly given and the uniformed police fell back and the
riot police came through. At this point people were baton
charged, at least twice, and the water cannon was used. All of
this happened very quickly and within two minutes of the banner
arriving at the front lines.

Let us get two things clear. One is the general question of
"provocation". We are told that we "provoked" the police. But
this was not a question of ordinary gardai somehow losing the
run of themselves. It was a command decision to pull back the
ordinary gardai and attack a crowd of several thousand people.
Those baton charges very nearly provoked a full-scale panic, in
which people would have been trampled. This has nothing to do
with keeping the peace.

Secondly, there is a question of appropriate reaction. If I am
trying to go somewhere and you are trying to stop me, there
might well be a bit of pushing involved, if I felt it was really
important to go where I wanted to go and you were being paid to
prevent me. Similar situations occur in Dublin nightclubs every
weekend of the year. They do not usually result in the bouncer
pulling out a club and splitting skulls.

And this is what happened. At least two people suffered severe
head injuries from truncheons (after all the hype, there were no
helmets, and no padding to be seen). When a DGN activist
attempted to bring these two obviously injured citizens to the
Meath hospital, Gardai refused access to the street.

We have spoken to several eyewitnesses who saw people beaten,
thrown over walls, or hit on the head, even while sitting down,
which many of us did in an attempt to reduce tensions. At least
two people were beaten behind police lines. We understand there
are at least two broken arms, one broken leg, and those two
skull injuries. One arrestee, with a broken leg, has been
offered paracetamol without an X-ray.

And so to those who have been arrested. At least 28 of them, who
were clearly denied phone calls for a number of hours after
being arrested (it is only in the early hours of the morning
that anyone succeeded in placing a call out).

Let’s look at one of these arrestees. After the initial baton
charges, a group of DGN activists had linked arms in a line and
were walking away from police lines, attempting to get the crowd
moving and keep people safe. The riot police were moving up too
rapidly behind them and not giving them or the crowd a chance to
get away. DGN activists told them precisely this and were
ignored.

Our friend fell down in this situation. He was immediately
hauled behind police lines and arrested - not for any action of
his, but because while trying to protect other people and remove
them from a space of danger, he was unlucky enough to get
caught. And it is clear that simply to be there, at that time
and in that place, even if what you were doing was trying to
rescue people, was an offence in the eyes of the law. Our friend
is now in Cloverhill jail.

This police reaction was unnecessary. There was never any chance
that the crowd would break through police lines. We were
literally surrounded by riot police: down the side streets, on
the North Circular, ready and waiting. The crowd was quite
dispersed. To repeat: if I push you, that does not justify you
in breaking my skull.

But we have to ask ourselves if any of this matters. The
Government wanted a riot, and no doubt that is how they will
describe this. If so, it was not protestors who were rioting.
Many journalists wanted a riot: we have been asking for weeks
why so few will talk to us about the issues. A month of
near-hysteria in sections of the media, fuelled by a range of
stories from the ever-fertile minds of the security forces, did
nothing to calm tensions.

Just for the record: where were the 20,000 anarchists who were
to burn Dublin to the ground? Where were the poison gas attacks?
Where were the arms dumps, the plan for mayhem? (We can perhaps
answer those last two questions: in Garda headquarters.)

But let’s be clear what has happened so far this weekend. 700
people walked and rode their bikes in the biggest Critical Mass
yet on Friday. 200 people joined our "No Borders" morning of
street theatre, and upwards of 1000 took part in our "Reclaim
the City" actions. And several thousand people made the long
walk from O’Connell Street to the Ashtown Roundabout in the face
of the biggest security operation, and the biggest campaign of
vilification, that many of us have ever seen. There was some
pushing, and the gardai started attacking people. We fell back,
and brought everybody back to town (except for the 28 inside),
and dispersed safely from O’Connell Street.

All of these - including most of last night’s march - were
cheerful, friendly and colourful events. As we were walking to
and from the Phoenix Park, there were singing, drumming, bells
and horns to be heard. Many, many people came out to watch us go
by, and often they waved - or in some cases, allowed women in to
use the bathroom. They were not terrified, and neither were we.

And we have shown that it is not so easy to take away democratic
freedoms. You can break people’s bones. You can throw them in
jail. But they will still assemble. And they will not give up
the right to protest so easily.

And tomorrow? Our events go ahead as planned. At 11.30, the No
Borders camp begins, and will last all day. And on Monday, we
will close off the weekend with a "Reclaim the Streets" party.
Unlike the Government, which cannot even find the political will
to hold a party if business interests are against it, we do know
how to throw a party. Like our other events, we expect it to be
big, we expect it to be friendly, and we are inviting the whole
city to join in.

Dublin Grassroots Network
PRESS RELEASES:
All press releases issued to date are available at:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/eufortress

For more information, including Mayday event plans, see:
www.struggle.ws/eufortress

http://www.struggle.ws/eufortress


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