ANTI-INTERNMENT PICKET, TWO ANTI-FASCIST CONFRONTATIONS

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 3 mins.)

It was waiting to happen. For weeks fascists and racists have been flaunting themselves in particular at the GPO in Dublin city centre and on two weekends assaulted a number of anti-fascists protesting peacefully against them — while the police harassed the victims. Today, the tables turned. Fascists marching across O’Connell Bridge were confronted by Irish Republicans picketing there for an end to internment without trial. Punches were thrown and the police arrested an antifascist. Later, fascists outside the GPO were also attacked, their amplifier and microphone confiscated by antifascists and a loudhailer smashed.

The SB harassment of anti-internment picketers can be seen here too from across the road.
(Photo source: Bystander)
View of anti-internment picketers on west side of the central pedestrian strip of O’Connell Bridge.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

          It was a day of many protests. The usual group of Far-Right, racists and fascists were outside the General Post Office on O’Connell Street, Dublin’s main street, protesting against the Covid19 restrictions, even claiming that the virus does not exist and is rather a creation of governments trying to instal “a world government”. Their weekly protest starts at 2pm but today they moved it back to 1pm, perhaps because another two protests had been scheduled to start at the same time: a national protest of the sacked Debenham workers and a last-minute Black Lives Matter protest.

In addition to the Far-Right at the GPO, another group of the same ilk, led by the fascist Irish Freedom (sic) Party, planned a march – also to start at 1pm — to the location of Radió Teilifís Éireann in Donnybrook. Their intention was to protest against any further lockdown and claiming that the national broadcaster is disseminating lies about the virus.

View of anti-internment protesters on east side of the central pedestrian strip on the Bridge looking southward shortly before the confrontation with the fascist marchers.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Two weeks ago, a Republican organisation, Saoradh, had advertised a picket to take place today on O’Connell Bridge in protest at continuing internment without trial of Republican activists. The protest was to take place on the anniversary of the introduction of formal internment in the occupied Six Counties in (7th to 9th August) 1971 and was orlginally planned to start at 2pm but, in order to facilitate people supporting the Debenham Workers’ national protest, was re-scheduled to start at 1pm. The picket would also protest the attempted extradition to Lithuania of Liam Campbell, an Irish Republican.

The announcement of the fascist IFP march came a few days before the scheduled picket but, although it was possible that it would pass over O’Connell Bridge and therefore by the picketers, the organisers decided to stick to their schedule and arrangement.

About 30 Irish Republicans and other socialists, including many independent activists took up positions at 1pm on the central pedestrian strip on O’Connell Bridge, unfolding banners and placards against internment and extradition and flying flags of various allegiances: Irish, Irish socialist republican, Basque, Basque Antifa, Palestine.

Another member of the ‘Special Branch’ harassing peaceful protesters.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)
(Photo source: Saoradh Dublin)
(Photo source: Saoradh Dublin)

GARDA HARASSMENT

Tall male member and female member of the ‘Special Branch’ harassing peaceful protesters.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

          Soon afterwards, the picketers began to be accosted by three plain-clothes political police, generally known as “the Special Branch” and as the cry went up of “Garda harassment!” the picketers began to parade in a circular movement around the central strip. Confrontations developed between the “Branch” and individuals they had targeted to demand their names and addresses. The Branch were using Section 30 of the Offences Against the State Act, “anti-terrorist” (sic) legislation but, since they refused to confirm that they suspected their victims of committing or being about to commit a crime and in fact quoted association with others who had been convicted in the past, they were using it illegally (as they usually do). Although the illegality was pointed out to them, the political police persisted in threatening their victims with arrest if they did not give their names and addresses until eventually some complied.

Meanwhile, the shouts of “Garda harassment” and “Police harassment of a peaceful protest” could be heard both sides of the Bridge and attracted the attention of passing bus passengers, with many tourists and others stopping to watch.

CONFRONTATION WITH FASCISTS

          The Branch had taken the names of perhaps no more than three when the fascist march could be seen approaching. By this time a number of other young men and women had taken position on the Bridge and, as Republican picketers stepped into the street to confront the fascists, the newcomers also jumped into the fray.

Uniformed Garda escorting the fascist marchers and those who had taken up positions on the Bridge waded into the antifascists and arrested at least one Republican there. For awhile the ability of the marchers to proceed seemed in doubt but the numbers of the antifascists were insufficient to overcome both police and fascists and so eventually the latter got across the bridge, being pursued down D’Olier Street with the Gardaí blocking antifascists there, the picketers gradually trickling back to the Bridge.

Gardaí protecting the fascists in D’Olier Street by blocking the antifascists.
(Photo source: Bystander)

It was not long before the cry of “Garda harassment!” rang out again as the political police, who had stayed well away from the fighting earlier, returned to their undemocratic repressive activity of intimidating and building up files on Republicans. The picketers began to renew their circling of the central strip and at that point it seemed the political police decided to give up, with perhaps a total of four or five having been coerced by the police.

View of part of the scene at the GPO immediately after the antifascist surge into the lines of the Far-Right.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Shortly after that, at about 1.45, the organisers decided to to end the picket a little early and some of the participants headed up to the GPO. They were not there long when a surge of antifascists, apparently led by anarchists, crossed from the central pedestrian reservation and into the ranks of the fascists. Uniformed Police rushed in and at least one antifascist was seen being held down by two Gardaí but another was running down the road with the fascists’ amplifier. Their microphone had also been seized and trampled and the remains of a loudhailer could be seen on the road. The fascists appeared badly shocked.

Another view of the scene very shortly after the antifascist surge into the lines of the Far Right.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

About five minutes later, the Public Order Unit, otherwise known as the “Riot Squad” arrived in three large police vans, precipitating a general evacuation of anarchists. The POU took up positions in a line near the antifascists, with uniformed police in a line on the other side of the road, i.e near the fascists.

Line of Public Order police near the antifascists with Jim Larkin monument in far distance, marking the spot of police attack on demonstrators on Bloody Sunday 1913, August 1913.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)
Line of uniformed police near the badly-shaken Far-Right by the GPO;
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

Republicans and some other antifascists remained in the area waiting for the advertised Black Lives Matter protest which did not materialise, nor could it be ascertained who had been allegedly organising it.

Then the Debenham’s Workers march came down O’Connell Street and, turning into Henry Street, proceeded to the site of the former department store (which is still holding stock and equipment). Without warning in the very early days of the Covid19 lockdown, their former employer closed its Irish stores and sacked its workers. They have now been protesting for 121 days and their minimum demand is that they are considered first in the line of creditors for their collective redundancy pay, instead of last of all as is the general practice of capitalism.

Debenham Workers’ march approaching the Spire.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)
View of section of the Debenham Workers’ rally outside the closed premises of their employer.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)
Central view of the Debenham Workers’ rally in Henry Street.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)
Supporters of the Debenham Workers, perhaps mother & daughter.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)
(Photo: D.Breatnach)
(Photo: D.Breatnach)
(Photo: D.Breatnach)
(Photo: D.Breatnach)

It was a day in which a number of different aspects of capitalism in crisis and State repression could be observed on the streets of the city centre, all in the space of a few hours.

End.

One thought on “ANTI-INTERNMENT PICKET, TWO ANTI-FASCIST CONFRONTATIONS

  1. Apparently the BLM protest that did not materialise at the Spire had been called by a group called Ant-Oppression Ireland and had posted just before the date that they would be marching with the Debenham Workers’ instead.

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