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(en) Ireland: The long march on the EU summit at Farmleigh

From "Andrew" <andrew@flag.blackened.net>
Date Mon, 24 May 2004 14:11:52 +0200 (CEST)


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In terms of the development of a libertarian movement in Ireland
the march on the EU summit at Farmleigh http://www.struggle.ws/eufortress/timetable.html
will probably be seen as a turning point. For the first time the movement mobilized
large number of people from outside its own ranks, in a demonstration that was
in direct defiance of the Irish governments attempt to ban such demonstrations.
The march was just one aspect of a weekend of activities that had been planned
and prepared for over the 6 or so months before the Mayday weekend by the Dublin
Grassroots Network. http://www.struggle.ws/eufortress/index.html I intend to
write on or link to stories about each of these in due course, as all
were worthwhile. Here I concentrate on the march on Farmleigh.

The idea of marching on Farmleigh came up early on in DGN
planning meetings. Not everyone thought this was a great idea.
Some thought all our actions should involved direct action and
others doubted that we could get enough people to go on a march
to make it worthwhile. Nevertheless after some discussion the
idea of a 'Bring the noise' march on Farmleigh was agreed as one
of a number of events for the weekend. As with all the other
events the details were left to be worked out by an autonomous
sub group of those interested in the march.

http://www.struggle.ws/pics/2004/farmleigh1may/banneercrowsINDYUK.jpg
Pic: The front of the march on Farmleigh on the Navan road.
From uk.indymedia.org, photographer not credited there. I'd no
camera with me so all these photos come from indymedia,
photographer is credited with the name used to post them to
indymedia

The 'Bring the noise' theme was inspired by demonstrations in
Argentina in recent years, which were in turn inspired, by
demonstrations against the dictatorship in Chile. The core idea is
that everyone brings some noisy implement (e.g. pot lids) to make
as much noise a possible. We recognized that there was no way
the government would allow a march to get within sight of the
EU heads of state but we figured we might get close enough for
them to hear us.

The plans for the 'Bring the noise' march were released on the
DGN web site and included in the 50,000 leaflets DGN published.
http://www.struggle.ws/eufortress/why.html
Thousands of stickers and posters that also advertised the
meeting up point at Parkgate street were also prepared and would
be distributed in the weeks before the demonstration.

The media storm that then broke surprised us. We had expected
a certain number of scare stories about violent protesters but we
were not prepared for headlines like 'Anarchist army plans
bloodbath in Ireland' or 'Anarchists to gas 10,000 people'. Almost
immediately it became clear that the government had ordered the
Gardai to identify the Farmleigh march as a major threat of
violence. We were told 15,000 foreign anarchists were on their
way to Ireland and that the flash point was to be Parkgate street
around the time our march was due to start.

In the early days no government or Gardai source was willing to
put their names to such crazy scare stories. Instead stories citing
unnamed sources were written by the crime correspondents of
the papers. As the nature of the 'crime correspondents' job is to
lick up to the Gardai press office in return details of the latest rape
and murder stories it was quite clear who these unnamed sources
were. We also had tabloid journalists claiming to have infiltrated
meetings of those planning to travel to Ireland; meetings that
invariably turned out to be publicly open and publicly advertised
events.

The government created a feeding frenzy of scare stories from
these leaks where absurdity would be piled on absurdity. Each
new absurd claim would be the background for the
announcement of the preparation of more repression for the
weekend; this in turn would justify the next absurd claim. Many
would have been amusing (remember the 'sharpened CD's to be
thrown Ninja style'!) were they not being used to throw people
into jail http://www.struggle.ws/eufortress/pr/harassment28april.html
and to launch a large-scale harassment campaign of
activists trying to advertise the events.

Although DGN was caught by surprise by the sheer volume and
absurdity of these accusations luckily we had decided to set up a
fairly large media-working group, which included 4-mandated
spokespeople. Once this was up and running we successfully
poured cold water on many of these scares and in particular the
DGN appearance on the Late Late Show which gave DGN a
human face undermined the more absurd stories.

In the days afterwards for the first time sources started to be given
for the stories and ministers appeared on radio to debate us, or
more accurately misrepresent the reasons for our protest. Best of
all the same crime correspondents who had peddled the most
ludicrous scare stories now came out with 'well these were just
worse case scenarios'. Some of the tabloids continued to spread
scare stories but with others publishing articles at least partially
rubbishing these scares anyone paying attention was becoming
more and more aware of what was going on.

As we rolled into the last few days before the protest we started to
get some positive coverage although we had great difficulty
getting any media interested in the issues we were protesting
about. http://www.struggle.ws/eufortress/whyprotest.html
However despite police harassment the bulk of our leaflets
http://www.struggle.ws/eufortress/pr/righttoprotest27march.html
were being distributed and fresh posters and stickers advertising
the events were going up as fast as the government, working
through the local council, get tear them down. All the scare
stories had also had the effect of everyone knowing that protests
were going to take place over the weekend.

Perhaps most amusingly the government suddenly realized that
the scare stories were also terrifying those they hoped would
attend the remaining public welcome events. We were treated to
the hilarious sound of the Minister for European Affairs, Dick
Roche, on national radio trying to explain that even the 'violent
protesters' had no record of targeting public event. These just
days after Bertie had labeled all those who intended to protest as
hooligans!

http://www.struggle.ws/pics/2004/farmleigh1may/firstwater.jpg
Pic: Watercannon in action on the Navan road: From
indymedia.ie by Chekov

On the Thursday before the summit march the government
played its last card. It ordered the Gardai to prevent our march
http://www.struggle.ws/eufortress/ban.html
taking place. An alarmist Prime Time on RTE (state TV) that
evening included a detailed plan as to how uniformed Gardai had
been ordered to attack our march as it made its way down the
south quays and how the riot squad would be waiting to attack
anyone who reached our assembly point at Parkgate street. The
word ban was never used but it was clear that in effect the
government had banned a peaceful but noisy march.

Finding this out some 40 hours before the march was due to start
caused something of a panic. We expected to have a number of
people with us throughout the day and that group could try and
march through the pre-meditated Gardai assault to the march
assembly point. However as the whole point of calling the march
was to give more people a chance to join us this would have made
very little sense.

On the Friday morning the people who had been planning the
details of the Farmleigh march got together with a number of
other DGN people who happened to be in the indymedia centre.
We put a proposal to them that we would shift the assembly point
to O'Connell street and call a protest rally there for 6pm against
the government's decision to ban the march. To that rally we
would put the proposal that the best way to protest the ban was to
defy it and march on Farmleigh where the summit was to take
place.

Notices were circulated on indymedia and a press release was
issued. http://www.struggle.ws/eufortress/ban.html
The media work turned out to be very important here as it
was the only way we had to inform the bulk of the population that
the new assembly point for the march was a couple of kilometers
from the previously advertised point.

That evening after the Critical Mass we got together the
remaining people who had volunteered to help out on the
Farmleigh march and sketched out the new plan with them
including agreeing a new route. We also decided that if we
reckoned some people would try and push through police lines
that we would halt the march at a great enough distance for this
to happen without people on the march being unwittingly sucked
into such an effort.

From the start the Farmleigh march had been argued for as a
non-confrontational event that anyone could turn up for with a
minimum risk of arrest. To make this very clear we had issued
guidelines in advance of the march explaining this and asking
those who wanted to go beyond these guidelines to do so
separately from the march. http://www.struggle.ws/eufortress/timetable.html
This was not because we had any
ideological objections to such an attempt; it was simply that we
wanted to tell people who were thinking about coming exactly
what they could expect.

This had been a subject of some controversy in particular with the
relatively small numbers of international activists who had arrived
in Dublin. Some were inclined to misread the guidelines as either
an ideological statement of pacifism or as an insistence that
everyone, everywhere in the city must follow them. For the most
part this was cleared up at a meeting involving most DGN
activists and most of the internationals. One tactical difference
that still existed was on the question of what we would do when
we got to a police line. The guidelines clearly stated that we
would not try and push through but many people both Irish and
international felt that at least a token effort should be made.

http://www.struggle.ws/pics/2004/farmleigh1may/marchstart.jpg
Pic: Front of march forms up on O'Connell street. From
indymedia.ie by Chekov

While we respected their freedom to adopt different tactics we
needed to also stick to the guidelines we issued. We figured the
best way to do this would be to halt our march some 100m short
of the police lines so that those who wanted to push through
could leave it and so try to push through without automatically
involving everyone else when the police attacked.

By the time Saturday morning dawned we did not know what to
expect. Would our new assembly point be announced by the
media? Would the riot police attempt to occupy that as well?
Would people be scared away or would they react against the
scare stores and the ban by tuning up.

The early news was not good. Only 100 turned up for the first
event and 8 of these were cops disguised as demonstrators, two
with face masks (the only masked up people on the protest at that
point). We also heard that the trotskyist organizers of a rival
march (the AEIP carnival) had actually announced on a
Newstalk106 (Dublin news station) that our march was cancelled
and so that everyone should go on theirs instead.
http://www.struggle.ws/eufortress/pr/notcancel30april.html
However as the day progressed things got better. But lunchtime
there were a couple of thousand of us and most of the radio news
bulletins were announcing our new assembly point. They were
also giving regular updates on what we were doing; this
apparently created a good sense of momentum if you were
listening to the reports at home.

Just after five o'clock we literally crossed the last major barrier
when over 1,000 of us marched from the south side of the city to
the north. This meant we had got lots of people along with our
banners and flags across the river that divides the city. We had
feared that the police might try and close the river bridges to
prevent us doing so.

Around 1,000 people marched to the assembly point arriving
before 6pm. Within 20 minutes we were joined by thousands
more. The government's tactics had backfired big time and a
demonstration I had hoped might break the 1,500 mark had three
or four times as many people on it.

It is worth noting at this point that as usual there is some
controversy about just how many did turn up. My own estimates
would be that over 5,000 were at the start up point and over half
of these marched most of the way to Farmleigh with us. By the
time we reached the police line some 6km from our start point
some 2000 remained. Others have different estimates. While, by
international standards, this is a fairly small crowd, in the Irish
context it was huge. The biggest previous turnout on a libertarian
organized demonstration would have been the 300 or so who
showed up for the anti-war direct action at Shannon airport in
March 2003. With few exceptions left marches typically attract
around 1,000 people or less.

As the numbers were more than we had hoped for we were under
prepared for communicating with this many people. While we
really needed a PA and a truck to speak from we made do with a
megaphone and standing in a shopping trolley. Three people
spoke and the under the statue of Jim Larkin
http://www.struggle.ws/cc1913.html the proposal was put
to the crowd that we march on Farmleigh. Those that could hear
assented and those who couldn't got to vote with their feet!

http://www.struggle.ws/pics/2004/farmleigh1may/meetingBYnoisemaching.jpg
Pic: Meeting in progress on O'Connell street: From indymedia.ie
by Noise machine


Pic: Meeting in progress on O'Connell street: From indymedia.ie
by Noise machine

We formed up behind the DGN banner which read 'No border, no
nations; Against a Europe of capital'. The entire front of the
march was made up of anarchist flags and banners followed by a
black bloc formation and then the rest of the march. Out front of
the banners were a hundred or so media jostling for the best spot
and asking which way we were going.

They weren't told because although we were going to follow the
most obvious route we wanted to keep this known only to a very
small group who would lead the march. This would give us some
chance of delaying a Gardai blocking operation and force the
journalists to march with us rather than wait behind police lines.
We figured better to have them embedded with us than the cops.

Right at the start some people let the media know what we had
thought of their coverage to date by spraying 'liars' on the side of
RTE, the state broadcasters, TV van. This of course made the
news; there is no story so important to journalists than one about
themselves. A couple of stupid minor scuffles broke out between
people on the black bloc and journalists who shoved cameras in
their faces. However given the level of media hysteria and the
tension of not knowing what the Gardai would do the vast
majority of journalists were treated considerably better by us than
they were to be treated by the Gardai (who hit some and water
cannoned others). And a least one camera man actually punched
someone on the bloc after he was pushed to one side as it passed!
Some media outlets tried to make a story of this afterwards but it
was really a case of 'handbags at 10 paces' rather than any real
confrontation. From the point of view of the protest it was not
useful and in at least some cases just provided the media with the
story they were looking for and seeking to provoke.

We were lucky with the weather and what had threatened to be a
dull and overcast day turned out to be fine sunshine and one of
those pleasant warm evenings you sometimes get in early May.
So the crowd was in high spirits as we set off. There was chanting
('whose streets, our streets' 'Our passion for freedom is bigger
than their prisons'), drumming and the sound of 1200 whistles
that had been donated by a supporter! There was also a guy out
front; his suit festooned with fake dollar bills playing traditional
tunes on a tin whistle using a megaphone for amplification. We
might not have called it a carnival but it certainly felt like one.

http://www.struggle.ws/pics/2004/farmleigh1may/bigcrowdBYnoisebloc.jpg
Pic: Rear of march forming up on O'Connell street: From
indymedia.ie by Noise Bloc

The streets were quite deserted but as much of our route lay
through residential areas many of the people came out to watch
us pass. Here were these hordes that they were told would 'burn
Dublin to the ground'. While a very few heckled far more came
into their gardens and exchanged banter with the marchers. Some
allowed women to use their toilets and a quite a few even joined
us.

Later the cops were to claim that we had somehow tricked them
by changing our route at the last moment. It is likely they though
we would either take King street or the North Circular road but
we knew they had a blocking position prepared at Hanlons corner
and had no intention of walking into this. As we progressed
rumors swept the march that 'someone had seen the cops
massing just around the corner' but every time cyclists went
ahead to check they found the road ahead empty.

Those who had already taken part in the rest of the day's events
had probably marched 10 or 14k before we even set out on the 9k
march to Farmleigh. For those unfamiliar with Dublin Farmleigh
house is situation at the back of the world's largest enclosed park,
the Phoenix park that has an 11km wall enclosing it. The whole
park was sealed off and two lines of fences and a heliport had
been built inside it, by the Ashtown gate. Additional fences
topped with razor wire had been built around Farmleigh itself and
many of the roads leading to the park were closed off.

As we marched up the New Cabra road we went through a dip
over one of the railway bridges. Looking back as the front of the
march came out of this dip I could see the road behind densely
packed with people for a couple of 100 meters. Perhaps half had
already dropped out but a good 3,000 were still marching on.

http://www.struggle.ws/pics/2004/farmleigh1may/crowdBYcircuscrew.jpg
Pic: Front of march on the New Cabra Road. From indymedia.ie
by Circus Crew

Turning from the New Cabra road onto the Navan road would be
the big test of the crowd's discipline. Here there was a
McDonalds with only a very thin line of uniformed Gardai and a
series of huge glass fronted car showrooms, all but the Mercedes
one unguarded. It had been agreed that there would be no
property damage on the march, this would test that resolve and
perhaps give the state the excuse to intervene. But the discipline
held and we all marched past.

The Navan road is a long and wide straight road lined with
houses, schools and a library. To the left side street after side
street runs down to the wall of the Phoenix park, each was
guarded by a small number of uniformed officers. Given that
there were thousands on duty they probably hoped we would be
tempted to try one of these narrow streets where we would have
been trapped against the wall of the park. We marched on;
already well within their red zone.

From our point of view the safest point for them to stop us would
be the Ashtown roundabout. Here we would be less than 100m
from the park and only about 200m from the heliport they had
built to ferry the EU leaders in and out. After this point we would
have to march on narrow country lane ways with the high wall of
the park on one side. If the road was unblocked that is what we
would have done but it would have taken us out of sight into an
area that we could easily be bottled up in.

Around 1km from the roundabout we stopped to take a break and
allow stragglers catch up with the march. People on bicycles
reported that very large numbers of Gardai seemed to be forming
up at the Ashtown gate but that the cyclists were being prevented
from getting closer by plain clothes secret police. At this stage it
also became clear that the black bloc wanted to advance to the
police lines and at least mount a token attempt to push through
them.

http://www.struggle.ws/pics/2004/farmleigh1may/pushingblock.jpg
Pic: Black bloc forms up facing police lines on the Navan road.
From indymedia.ie by Chekov

After a 20 minute break we set off. Ahead a solid line of bright
yellow could be seen, the fluorescent vests of a triple line of cops
stretching across the roundabout entrance. If we were confident
that no break though would be attempted we would have
marched right up to that line before halting. As we reckoned one
would be attempted we halted at the last junction onto the Navan
road, a little over 100m from the roundabout.

Two people on megaphones announced to the crowd that the
DGN march was halting here and asked them to step to one side
so that anyone who wanted to go right up to the police line could
pass through. A 50 strong black bloc passed through with a
banner reading 'Resist the Europe of capital' and advanced up the
road with the vast majority of the crowd either following them up
or going up ahead of them.

They stopped just short of the police line and then with arms
linked advanced into the police line, trying to push through. After
a minute or so it started to break and with a command the
uniformed Gardai retreated to be replaced by riot police.
Journalists behind the front line reported seeing rank after rank of
riot police lining the road that turned down to the Navan gate.
Behind the riot police came the water cannon and this proceeded
to start blasting the crowd.

http://www.struggle.ws/pics/2004/farmleigh1may/pushingstart.jpg
Pic: Pushing against the police line (top). From indymedia.ie by
Chekov

At the point the Gardai plan started to come apart. They probably
hoped to provoke a violent response from the crowd in order to
'justify' the millions the government had spent on their security
operation. Unfortunately for them they were a little more creative
than this. The Gardai were greeted with a range of bizarre sights.
Some protesters danced in the water jets in front of the massed
riot police. One man with a large pot he had been using as drum
caught the spray and threw it back at the riot police. A woman
with goggles and a snorkel danced up and down in front of police
lines. And a couple with umbrellas broke into 'singing in the rain'.

Time for some escalation. http://www.struggle.ws/eufortress/pr/injured3may.html
A riot cop stepped through the lines
and struck a man dancing in front of the shields three times. The
women with the goggles and snorkel received similar treatment.
The water cannon switched to high pressure and was used to
blow journalists overlooking the scene from a high granite wall off
the wall, preventing any embarrassing pictures from that
excellent vantage point. One cameraman was knocked out as he
hit the ground 2m below but regained consciousness after a few
minutes. The SKY News live camera feed was also knocked out
by this attack.

http://www.struggle.ws/pics/2004/farmleigh1may/violentassault.jpg
Pic: Riot cop (under red arrow) hits dancing man (under second
red arrow) for the third time: From indymedia.ie by Chekov

http://www.struggle.ws/pics/2004/farmleigh1may/wateronjournos.jpg
Pic: The view from the wall seconds before journalists are blasted
off it by the watercannon. From indymedia.ie by Chekov

A few plastic bottles and flags were thrown at the police line and
one heroic individual managed to jump onto the window grill of
the water cannon but still the Gardai lacked the response they
badly needed. Things were not going to plan. They advanced on
the crowd, batoning more people and pushing people along with
their shields. An indymedia reporter was hit in the chest by the
water cannon jet and temporally knocked unconscious. Protesters
were knocked over by the water cannon and suffered broken
bones as they were slammed into the ground. People were
grabbed at random out of the crowd and arrested.

http://www.struggle.ws/pics/2004/farmleigh1may/journodown.jpg
Pic: Camera man after being knocked off wal by water cannon
(the can's were not his!). From indymedia.ie by Chekov

In the meantime the DGN banners back at the junction had
turned around to be facing back into town. We did not want a rout
to develop as people could be injured and intended to lead a slow
retreat back into the city centre. Each time we saw the water
cannon advance 20 or so meters we moved the banner 20 or so
meters down the road. People began retreating back to the
banners from the front line but with the exception of one
'revolutionary party' that had already left the scene almost
everyone else halted behind the banners, anxious that no one
should be left behind.

http://www.struggle.ws/pics/2004/farmleigh1may/retreatprepBYcircuscrew.jpg
Pic: Retreat prepared, the bright light in the centre is the lights on
the water cannon. From indymedia.ie by Circus Crew

After what felt like a long time the long slow march back into the
city centre started. The water cannon and riot police were
repeatedly attacking the back of the march but each time a rout
looked likely people used the megaphones to ask people not to
run but to walk slowly. This worked and we managed to stay
together as a block. At the back people had formed a line to stop
the riot police penetrating the line and there were more arrests
here as the riot police batoned people, again trying to provoke a
panic.

Every side street we now passed was lined with rank after rank of
riot police. It may have been intimidating but they failed to break
our spirit and we marched together as a bloc, stopping from time
to time to allow the stragglers to catch up. After a while the riot
police broke contact with our back, probably because it was tiring
moving around in all their protective gear.

Throughout the march and indeed the weekend many, many
cops disguised as demonstrators were spotted amongst us. Some
were easy to spot as they wore a tiny black earpiece in one ear.
Some seemed to be trying to stir up trouble and just after we had
broken contact with the riot police two of these characters near
the front of the crowd started shouting that we should stop and
turn to face the cops. They were quickly surrounded by people
chanting 'where's your number?' and cleared off. We marched on
soon leaving the massed ranks of cops behind as we turned onto
the New Cabra road.

Overhead as we marched back down the New Cabra road the
police helicopter circled shining its spotlight into the crowd. Here
it is reported that a middle aged man with a strong Wicklow
accent and one of the giveaway black earpieces appeared from
nowhere and asked what was planned when we got back into
town. 'Were we going to riot?' This character was ignored and
soon got bored and drifted off.

On the way back we stopped briefly outside Mountjoy prison
whose entrance was lined with ranks of cops. We knew that at
least one of our comrades was inside and chants rang out in the
hope she might hear them. We marched onto Dorset street and
on to O'Connell street where we had planned to disperse.

http://www.struggle.ws/pics/2004/farmleigh1may/noisemarchingBYcircuscrew.jpg
Pic: Part of the march on the way to Phibsboro. From
indymedia.ie by Circus Crew

On the way up many of the reporters wanted to know why we
were going up the Navan road rather than heading for one of the
closer park gates. There were many reasons for this, chief
amongst them that this was likely to be the closest point we
would get to Farmleigh (around 1.5km as the crow flies, 3km by
road). But another was that a heliport had been built just inside
the gate for ferrying the EU dignitaries to and from the ceremony.

As the riot squad were deployed in Ashtown and the flashing
lights of the water cannon came forward out of the dusk I looked
to the right. From the heliport a string of large passenger
helicopters were taking off. I don't know if they heard us 'bring
the noise' but whichever of the 25 EU leaders were in those
helicopters could look out their window to the left and from the
commotion below see that it is true to say that "we are
everywhere".

The government had tried to terrify the population of the city in
advance of the march, both to make them hostile to the protesters
and to scare people who were thinking of joining in. Despite this
thousands did turn out on the march. The Gardai attacked the
crowd with batons and water cannons, injuring some and
arresting around 29 but they failed to panic us and we marched
together back into town. The government showed it is willing to
suspend civil liberties in order to suppress protest. We showed
that we will resist them. http://www.struggle.ws/eufortress/pr/wemarched2may.html

Joe Black

Discussion of this article on Indymedia.ie
http://www.indymedia.ie/newswire.php?story_id=64975
Useful links

* Indymedia archive of Mayday reports, photos and video
http://www.indymedia.ie/index.php?topic=mayday2004
* The EUfortress site (DGN's website)
http://www.struggle.ws/eufortress/index.htm
* Anarchism and the European Union
http://www.struggle.ws/wsm/eu.html
* Against capitalist globalisation
http://www.struggle.ws/wsm/global.html

Mayday Mayday
http://www.struggle.ws/wsm/ws/2004/80/mayday.html
EU leaders in the castle - we'll take the streets. On Saturday, the
first of May, anarchists and other activists from the Dublin
Grassroots Network are calling for a day of action and protest
against the EU.

Gardai harassment of Mayday protest leafleting continues
http://www.struggle.ws/wsm/news/2004/mayday/leafleathassle.html
Over the last week the Gardai have repeatedly turned up on
occasions where the Dublin Grassroots Network has been
attempting ton inform the public about the Mayday protests.

An anarchist response to Ireland on Sunday
http://www.struggle.ws/wsm/news/2004/IoSjan.html
Feb 8th, Ireland on Sunday published a scare story about
anarchism and the forthcoming EU protests. This is a reply

[A Personal report from a Workers Solidarity Movement member,
these reports are posted to the Ainriail list when first written
http://www.struggle.ws/other/ainriail.html]


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SUBSCRIPTION: send mail to lists@ainfos.ca with command in
body of mail "subscribe (or unsubscribe) listname your@address".

Options for all lists at http://www.ainfos.ca/options.html


A-Infos Information Center