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(en) Mass demonstration at Shannon Warport

From "Andrew" <andy@dojo.tao.ca>
Date Mon, 20 Jan 2003 08:34:53 -0500 (EST)

      A - I N F O S  N E W S  S E R V I C E

>   Mass demonstration at Shannon Warport

With preparations for war stepping up some 7,000 
US troops a week have been flying though Shannon 
Airport. Alongside them are a growing number of 
US cargo aircraft some of which can also be used 
a bombers. On Saturday 18th January thousands of 
people travelled from around the country to 
protest at the military use of the airport and 
to oppose war in Iraq.

Pic: Protesters occupy airport roof (to view 
pics go to the online version at 

Demonstrations have become a regular feature at 
Shannon over the last year and just a week 
before a permanent peace camp was started at the 
airport gates. Direct action has been a feature 
of almost all of these demonstrations, most 
successfully when a large section of airport 
fence was torn down and some 150 people got into 
the airfield. On another occasion a lone 
activist (Eoin Dubsky) scaled the fence and 
spray pained a UAF Hercules that was on the 
ground with anti-war slogans. He then turned 
himself in and is using his court case to 
highlight the military use of Shannon. This has 
played a major part in forcing the media to 
cover the military use of Shannon - the opening 
of the peace camp also generated huge amounts of 
media coverage and public debate.

The demonstration started at a shopping centre 
in Shannon town a couple of kilometres from the 
airport gate. Coaches had travelled from all 
over the country. The demonstration was far 
larger then anyone expected and was a good bit 
bigger then the last anti-war march in Dublin. 
As usual there were disagreements about the 
numbers who took part, I estimated around 2,000, 
RTE (state media) reported 1,500 and one 
Socialist Party member claimed to have counted 
2,900. In any case this was at least three times 
bigger then any of the previous demonstrations.

Pic: A full view of the demonstration as it left 
Shannon town

We marched up the airport road stopping at the 
peace camp at the gates to allow some of the 
peace campers to address the crowd. While this 
was going on I went to the side fence of the 
airport with a few others where Tim H. pointed 
out two planes at the terminal. One was from one 
of the airliners used to transport US soldiers 
to the Middle East. The other was more 
mysterious as its tail colours had been 
stripped. Tim had tried to look up its 
registration number but could only tell from it 
that it was a (former?) Afghan airlines plane. 
This simply serves to highlight not only the 
volume of US military traffic going through 
Shannon but also how no one knows what these 
planes are carrying.

The demonstration then marched up the airport 
road to the terminal building where there was 
the standard attempt to enter the terminal, as 
always prevented by the Gardai. The organisers 
then started up the speeches (with the usual 
speakers) but the PA was very underpowered so 
most people were unable to hear them. As usual 
the Gardai were also refusing to allow even very 
small children to use the toilets in the 
terminal building, something that was causing 
some distress to their mothers.

Pic: Even the Labour Party were there in 

The demonstration was called by the SWP created 
'Irish Anti War Movement'. It opposes direct 
action but on the bus on the way to Shannon we 
had been told that on this occasion they had no 
wish to try to prevent others carrying out such 
actions. The reality though was that although 
there had been some discussion of possible 
direct actions in advance of Shannon (and more 
on the bus on the way down) no real preparation 
work had been done. And on the day itself 
despite a couple of attempts to get a large 
group together to discuss this nothing concrete 
was organised.

Pic: The limits of preparation - at least banner 
had been prepared!

As it happened the 'direct action' aspect of the 
demonstration developed spontaneously. Aer 
Rianta have reacted to the presence of anti-war 
plane spotters at Shannon through a long program 
of harassment which included shutting down the 
public viewing gallery at the Airport. At the 
edge of the demonstration a few people used the 
staircase onto the roof of the two-story 
building to get a view of the crowd. The Gardai 
appeared and ordered them down at which point 
they realised they had accidentally begun a 
direct action reclaiming the viewing space.

The movement of the Gardai onto the roof 
attracted the attention of many other people in 
the crowd who also felt they had come to Shannon 
to do more then listen to a few speeches. But 
the Gardai stopped them joining those already on 
the roof simply by blocking to spiral stairs.

Pic: Gardai block spiral staircase but protests 
have found another roof

At this point some bring spark noticed that the 
adjoining one story building also had a flat 
roof. A group went around the side of it, scaled 
a drainpipe and appeared with banners facing the 
front. Lots of others who had been stuck at the 
bottom of the spiral staircase then ran around 
the side to join them. At this point four Gardai 
with dogs charged into the crowd who were trying 
to scale the pipes, the dogs bit a couple of 
people as they were driven back.

Pic: Gardai with dogs attack protesters

This made those on the roof pretty angry with 
the result that some milk was spilt over these 
cops and a lit flare thrown down onto the ground 
nearby. The dogs went apeshit but the crowd 
calmed down and backed off, many people finding 
others ways to climb onto the roof. One 
particularly daft cop tried to extinguish the 
flair by stamping on it and was only stopped 
when one of these his dog had been trying to bit 
minutes before explained that he was only going 
to manage to set his trousers alight.

Pic: Protester with flare on the airport roof

Meanwhile a sound system transported in shopping 
trolleys had arrived at the base of the 
buildings and started playing. This apparently 
didn't help people hear the speeches that were 
still being made over by the terminal door but 
when this was pointed out to them they "turned 
down/off the music for quite a while before 
starting it up again." After 30 minutes or so 
those who had climbed the roof and hung anti-war 
banners over the sides come down without further 
interference from the Gardai.

The roof top protest was a bit scrappy but 
demonstrated that the idea that direct action is 
needed to stop the use of Shannon has grown in 
popularity. What was very much missing on the 
day was any proper attempt to organise this 
sentiment and create an action in which a large 
number of those there could participate.

Pic: Sit down in support of roof top protesters

As the crowd drifted back to the buses a second 
action was organised. On the way in it had been 
noticed that there was a poorly guarded gate 
that appeared to offer a way through onto the 
tarmac, near the two military planes already 
mentioned. A group of about 30 people tried to 
charge through the five cops at this gate. Some 
eight or nine made it but found themselves 
charging into a dead end. Half a dozen of these 
kept going into a warehouse but were then 
trapped there by the police. At the gate we 
thought they might be arrested and attempted to 
block a Gardai van gaining access by sitting in 
front of it. But as it turned out that although 
they had their names and addresses taken they 
were allowed to leave without arrest after 20 
minutes or so.

The major success of the day was the number of 
people who turned up at Shannon for the 
demonstration. Providing a sensed of momentum 
can be kept going there is no reason why future 
demonstrations should not continue to grow as 
more and more people decide it is time for them 
to come out. The direct action, although very 
scrappy in this case, is vital to this sense of 
momentum. Not everyone was happy with it (one 
man was shouting that he wanted the TV cameras 
to be on him and not on the rooftop 
protesters!!) but this is a reason for making 
the arguments for direct action clear to all 
that are attending these demonstrations.

Pics: A final message from the rooftop

The next major event is the February 15th anti 
war marches in Dublin and Belfast. The Dublin 
organisers are hoping for an attendance of 
10,000. For those who see direct action as 
essential to the ending the war we should make 
sure not only that we are there to make this 
argument but also that we build for the 
demonstration itself. As the movement gets 
larger it will become harder and harder for the 
parties that founded the IAWM to simply 
determine strategy.

It is probable that the Irish government will 
continue to ignore public hostility to 
refuelling at Shannon. The argument that mass 
direct action in some form, whether that be 
airport workers refusing to handle military 
planes or 5,000 people going onto the runway, is 
the only thing that can stop refuelling will be 
easier and easier to make. But we need to see 
our role as making that argument and not simply 
improving the planning of the actions 

[A Personal report from a Workers Solidarity 
Movement member, these reports are posted to the 
Ainriail list when first written]

Linked to from online version at 

Media Round-up: Shannon Warport Protest
Discussion of this article (on Indymedia, link 
will be made active after indymedia link 
Stop refuelling at Shannon warport - Background 
details and history of previous protests
Stop the War - International anti-war reports 
and documents
Refueling Peace
'Irish Anti War Movement'
Shannon Peace Camp
What happens when the Gardai (police) are asked 
to investigate the illegal weapon shipments?

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