SPANISH POLICEMAN ARRESTED WAITRESS BECAUSE HE DIDN’T LIKE HIS COFFEE — TO APPEAR IN COURT

(Reading time: 5 mins.)

E. Conde NOTICIAS DE NAVARRA (translation by D.Breatnach)

Never could a coffee have been so bitter. This Wednesday the First Section of the Provincial Court of Navarra is to judge a Guardia Civil officer, belonging to the Citizen Security Unit of the Command of Navarra, accused by the Prosecutor’s Office and the private prosecution of the crime of illegal detention by a public official after he arrested a waitress at a gas station, with whom he argued because the coffee was not to his liking. They ask for him to be fined a sum of 2,160 euros and that he be disqualified for nine years from his post. In addition, they demand that he compensate the victim with 1,000 euros for moral damage.

The events occurred around 10:30 p.m. on July 27, 2019 when the defendant, a Guardia Civil since 2005, in command of a unit arrived with his colleague at the Acciona service station on the A-12, in the area of Legarda. There they went into the café and ordered some coffees. According to the Prosecutor’s Office, “since he did not like the coffee, he argued with the waitress and manager, who was serving the rest of the customers.”

Neither the complaint form nor her driver’s license was acceptable to him

He did not restrict himself to mere protest. He requested the complaint sheet, arguing with her to give it to him immediately. The defendant considered that said sheet was not the corresponding one and asked for her National ID and the woman gave him her driving license. The Guardia insisted that this sheet was not the correct one and considered her driving licence identification insufficient.

The waitress continued working, but the defendant called her, made her step outside away from where the customers could see what was happening and “with abuse of authority, telling her that she was disrespectful”, proceeded to arrest her at around 10:45 p.m. and to put her in the patrol car. She was taken to the Puente la Reina barracks, and handcuffed as a detainee. She was held until 2:00 am, when a statement was taken and she was released. As a result, the victim suffered from anxiety.

During the investigation of the case there was an attempt to resolve the matter by the criminal mediation procedure but as this was unsuccessful, it goes to trial. In principle, any possibility of agreement is ruled out since the officer, if convicted of said crime, would be disqualified from any similar job for a relevant period of time.

COMMENT

by Diarmuid Breatnach

The case is an extreme example of a common aspect of the Guardia Civil – arrogance, a sense of entitlement and impunity and lack of respect for issues of justice or ordinary people. Contempt and hostility towards socialists, LGBT and aspirations of the nations within the state are common too but, although this took place in Nafarroa, in one of the Basque regional autonomies, the report does not reveal whether this played a part.

The Guardia Civil is one of two “national” police forces of the Spanish State and the oldest police force of the kingdom. It is a gendarmerie, an armed police force with military organisation and role in addition to a civil one, such as the Gendarmerie of the French state, Carabinieri of the Italian state and the Royal Irish Constabulary all over Ireland until 1921 and its remnant, the Police Force of Northern Ireland (British colony) today. The force is quartered in barracks for accommodation with police station facilities, cells etc.

GUARDIA CIVIL AND FASCISM

When the fascist-military coup was launched against the republican Popular Front Government of the Spanish state in 1936, the Guardia Civil split evenly between those who remained loyal to the Government and those who defected to the fascist-military, with those loyal becoming the Guardia Republicana. However, that percentage was in the lowest order of police force loyalty to the republican Government, with elected government loyalty in other police forces at around 70% of membership. After the defeat of the republican forces, the superior officer of the Guardia Republicana, General José Aranguren was tried by Francoist military court, sentenced to death and executed in Barcelona.

Often thought to be of Franco prisoners during the Civil War, in fact this photo is of prisoners of the Guardia Civil during the suppression of the Asturias Miners’ Strike in 1934 by General Franco during the right-wing period of the Republican Government, which was overturned in the 1936 elections of the Popular Front. (Photo sourced: Internet)

In the areas conquered by the fascist-military forces and in the whole state after the defeat of the republican forces, the Guardia Civil were one of the chief forces seeking out and rounding up former supporters of the republican Government along with communists, socialists, anarchists, republicans, Basque, Catalan and Galician nationalists. Most of the detainees were brought before military courts and either sentenced to death, to penal servitude or to heavy fines and confiscations of property. Some never made it to court, being summarily executed. Rapes were also recorded and infants of murdered parents were trafficked to fascist childless families.

In the nations that had shown wishes for independence or autonomy, such as Catalonia and the southern Basque Country (of which Navarre is a part), along with other areas where antifascist resistance had been strong such as some areas of Madrid, the Guardia Civil was a constant and visible force of surveillance and repression of the civil population in terms of culture, morality and politics.

Guardia Civil searching country area during the later decades of the Franco regime. (Photo sourced: Internet)

During times of guerrilla conflict, the Guardia at times killed prisoners and routinely tortured detainees during interrogation (the Wikipedia entry says that they were accused of “heavy-handedness”!). Colonel Tejero of the Guardia Civil led 200 of that force in a failed attempted coup in 1981 which included an armed invasion of the Spanish Parliament. Several Guardia including very high-ranking officers were convicted of organising the fascist murder squads of the 1980s (GAL etc) run by the Spanish PSOE Government.

The Guardia until recently was the primary police force acting against the Basque national resistance and numerous of their detainees over decades have testified to being tortured, humiliated (including sexually) and threatened almost immediately after arrest, during their transportation by the Guardia to the force’s barracks in Madrid, where the torture etc continued up to the five days incommunicado detention permitted under Spanish State “anti-terrorist” legislation. The treatment usually produced “confessions” which were then used to secure a conviction and long prison sentence. The European Court of Human Rights has a number of times found the Spanish State guilty of not investigating allegations of torture by detainees and a number of human rights organisations such as Amnesty International have condemned the impunity of the torturers.

Guardia Civil in action in Catalonia during the Referendum on independence there on 1st October 2017. (Photo sourced: Internet)

The Guardia Civil frequently break up demonstrations and in 2017 both they and the Policía Nacional invaded Catalonia in force, the Guardia Civil seizing ballot boxes in the Catalonia Independence Referendum and beating voters and people protesting their actions (also firing rubber bullets which are banned by the regional Government).

Since 2020, actions against Basque and Catalan independence campaigners have been carried out mostly by their autonomous regional police forces (Ertzaintza and Forales in the Basque autonomous regions and Mossos d’Escuadra in Catalonia) but, if charged with “terrorism” or “security crimes”, detainees were delivered to the Guardia Civil who then took them to Madrid for interrogation.

(Photo sourced: Internet)

SOURCES

There report on the case:

https://www.noticiasdenavarra.com/actualidad/sociedad/2021/03/22/juzgan-guardia-civil-navarra-arresto/1131185.html?

Extremely sanitised Wikipedia description of the Guhttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gendarmerieardia Civil: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_Guard_(Spain)

Gendarmerie:

Amnesty international report 1976: https://www.irekia.euskadi.eus/uploads/attachments/10710/Amnistia_Internacional1976.pdf

1985 Torture, murder of Basque activists and subsequent cursory investigation: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/old-bones-reveal-dark-side-1.262790

1993 murder of Basque activist detainee: https://medium.com/@stewreddin/they-came-for-her-in-the-morning-f4585ddc8c07

UN Committee on 2007 kidnapping and torture (including sexual) of Basque activist: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=24629&LangID=E

European Council investigation into allegations of mistreatment of migrants 2015: http://webfolder.eurac.edu/MIDAS/1C28407F-517E-41C1-9EB5-8AE40974577C/0/EgunkariaEgunon3250203.pdf

BLACK LIVES MATTER ACTIVIST SHOT IN THE HEAD IN LONDON

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 5 mins.)

In the early hours of May 23rd, according to reports, four men gained uninvited access to a social event in Consort Road, a residential street in the Peckham area in SE London’s Borough of Southwark. One of them fired one shot from a gun and the bullet struck prominent BLM activist Sacha Johnson in the head. She remains in critical condition in hospital. There are unresolved questions about this incident and about the subsequent actions and statement by the London Metropolitan Police.

Sasha Johnson and others in London recently protesting about racism and inequality (Photo sourced: Internet)

THE AREA

Peckham is mostly a residential and shopping area in a SE London suburb, in a mix of predominantly pre-war terraced housing and post-war blocks of flats. It is well off the London Underground network but served by an overground train station and bus depot with a number of bus routes traversing it. There is a medium-sized park area called Peckham Rye and a branch of the canal network ran through a part of Peckham but no longer does so (filled in during the time I lived there). I lived in Peckham on two different occasions during my decades working in England (nearly all of which were spent based in SE London) in one period of which my daughter was born. I was politically active there and for a time worked not far away from Peckham variously in furniture removal, factories and in a number of foundries.

Consort Road, Peckham, SE London, where the shooting took place (Photo sourced: Internet)

Peckham and many nearby areas of SE London are mixed ethnically having been settled by successive waves of Irish migrants, Afro-Caribbeans, then some South Asians, followed by Africans. Throughout its history there have been frequent conflicts between people living there and the police and also between communities and fascist organisations.

Irish Socialist and Republican activist and journalist Jim Connell wrote a draft of the Red Flag in 1989 on a train journey from London Bridge to his home in the SE London Borough of Lewisham, a 15-minute bicycle ride from Peckham. During the 1926 General Strike a scab tram was overturned in nearby Camberwell by strikers and a policeman reputedly pushed down a manhole. Clashes occurred between Mosley’s Blackshirts and antifascists, with one of the big battles of the 1930s taking place in Long Lane, at the further limits of SE London, approaching the Thames river.

Much nearer to Peckham, after WW2, Blackshirts attempting to set up public speaking in East Street outdoor market (“East Lane” as it was known locally) were attacked by antifascists and clashes occurred there again in the 1970s between antifascists and the National Front. The early post-War migrants from the Caribbean in New Cross, very close on the other side of Peckham, had frequent clashes with racists and with the police. In the 1970s clashes occurred often in New Cross and nearby Deptford between antifascists and the National Front, while not far away again was the scene of the famous 1977 Battle of Lewisham, in which antifascists denied the National Front passage through and fought also, in particular, the London Metropolitan Police.

During the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s there were public meetings organised in various parts of SE London in solidarity with Irish struggles and with Irish political prisoners, including the framed prisoners such as the Birmingham Six. There are predominantly Irish pubs dotted throughout the whole area and weekly traditional music sessions have been held in some of them, while New Cross had an Irish dance hall and Lewisham still has an Irish community centre, founded by a local branch of the Irish in Britain Representation Group. Individuals from the Irish community were active in trade union and left-wing activism and in particular in antifascism.

QUESTIONS

There are a number of questions arising out of the Metropolitan Police investigation into the shooting of Sasha Johnson and their public statement.

  • The Met said they did not believe Sasha Johnson was the target. In a statement made before even an arrest of suspects, this would seem to be at least premature. It would also be a substantially suspect coincidence for the only firearm discharge to hit Johnson and, in addition, in the head.
  • Sasha Johnson supporters say she had received death threats and another activist, interviewed by an ABC reporter (see video in CNN link) on a demonstration a few weeks before the shooting, said that she had received a number of threats. However the Met statement said Sasha Johnson had not received credible death threats. What is “a credible death threat”? Antifascists and left-wing activists all over the world regularly receive death threats and, in Ireland, the targets would include Irish Republicans. Some of those threats have been carried out historically and fascists have gone on shooting or bombing sprees against ethnic and LGBT minorities, often after issuing threats on social media, without police prevention.
  • The TTIP statement (see Sources) said that according to their information the Met had not carried out house-to-house enquiries in the area of the shooting.
  • The arrest of five individuals and their charging with conspiracy to murder (two) and affray and attempted murder (all five), along with drug possession with intent to supply etc would serve to support an narrative of black-on-black crime related to drugs supplying. But how does that narrative fit with an invasion of a social event and the shooting in the head of a prominent black lives matter activist?
  • If the Met maintains that Johnson was not the intended target, how can they charge someone with conspiracy to murder her (unless they allege that some other person was the intended victim, which they have not said)?
  • And if the shooting of Sasha Johnson was by black individuals and she was the target, does that raise the possibility of politically-motivated action through proxies, as has occurred a number of times in the USA (and in the Six Counties of Ireland)?

HISTORICAL USA CONTEXT

Regarding the last question above, the TTIP has reached nowhere near the political impact where it seems likely the UK State would arrange such an action — but it remains a possibility.

In the USA the city and state police departments have a history of surveillance and repression of Black militant organisations and at times their actions have been more extreme. In 1985 Philadelphia police in an operation approved by its black Mayor, bombed the radical black MOVE organisation with a C4 explosive satchel from a helicopter, resulting in the deaths of 11 people including five children, aged 7 to 13. The police bombing and subsequent fire destroyed 61 homes and made 250 Philadelphia residents homeless.

The Federal State itself, in particular through the FBI, set out to infiltrate the left-wing Black Panthers and Black nationalist organisations with agents not only for surveillance but also to cause dissension and feuds.

The FBI also with direct homicidal intent targeted militant black activists as in the case of Fred Hampton, a prominent Black Panther activist and public speaker: in December 1969, (Fred) Hampton was drugged, shot and killed in his bed during a predawn raid at his Chicago apartment by a tactical unit of the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office in conjunction with the Chicago Police Department and the FBI. Law enforcement sprayed more than 90 gunshots throughout the apartment; the occupants fired once. (Wikipedia). Though incredibly a Cook County Coroners’ Court ruled his killing and that of another victim to be “justifiable homicide”, a civil suit on behalf of nine plaintiffs was settled in 1982 with a payment of $1.85 million, the City of Chicago, Cook County and the Federal Government each paying one-third.

In addition the FBI monitored the activities of the Nation of Islam organisation of Black muslims in the USA and, through its agents in the organisation was well aware of hostilities towards Malcolm X, who had left the organisation. As Malcolm X began to develop a thesis that black people in the USA needed to unite with oppressed people of any colour anywhere, he was assassinated by gunmen of the Black Muslims with FBI collusion (if not outright organisation) on 21st February 1965.

Martin Luther King Jnr. was a world-famous black civil rights campaigner. However in later years he also sought to unite the concerns of poor whites with the cause of black civil rights and also opposed the USA’s War in Vietnam. The FBI and the State itself (through Robert F. Kennedy, the former Attorney General) were recruiting agents in his movement and electronically bugging his hotel rooms during campaigns. King was murdered by a sniper’s bullet on April 4th 1968 and the white man arrested who confessed to the murder, James Earl Ray, later recanted and alleged his solicitors had advised him to plead guilty. King’s family supported Ray in seeking a retrial and clearly suspected the US State of having arranged the killing but Ray died before any such retrial took place.

IN CONCLUSION

The London Metropolitan Police have a long history of racism towards Irish and Black people, which was known long before the Stephen Lawrence murder case but officially admitted regarding black people in the McPherson report into the Met’s handling of that murder investigation. There had long been complaints of discriminatory policing and racial profiling, harassment of Irish and Black people in police stop-and-question actions and house raids and there were also incidents where the Met had killed black and Irish people during arrests (many deaths also in police station custody).

Stephen Lawrence Murder Inquiry in 1998 was attended by protesters against the handling of the case by the Metropolitan Police. Sir Paul Condon, named on the placard, was knighted 1994, Commissioner of the Met 1993-2000 and was made a life peer in 2001, Baron Condon. (Photo credit: Diomedia)

In addition, the Met have a long history of collusion with fascist organisations, from Sir Oswald Moseley’s “Blackshirt” (British Union of Fascists) to the more recent National Front, British Movement and others. In just one event in 1936, over 7,000 Met officers, including all their mounted police, attempted to force a Blackshirt march through a part of East London where there was a high occupation rate of East European migrant Jewish people. The result was a pitched battle against a defensive mobilisation of ethnic Jews and Irish, along with communists and anarchists. The fascists did not get through but most of the fighting was actually with the police.

The Mangrove restaurant in Notting Hill, West London, opened in 1968 serving Caribbean cuisine and became a meeting place for black activists and intellectuals. It was frequently raided by the Metropolitan police. In 1970 the community organised a protest march to the local police station and violence broke out between police and the protesters, after which the Met charged nine activists with inciting a riot. The trial of the Mangrove Nine lasted 55 days, included a number of challenges to court, exposed the racism of the police and ended in the acquittal of all nine on the more serious charges.

In 1974, an attempt to disrupt a National Front meeting in London ended with many antifascists injured by the Met and Kevin Gately, a student from Leeds of Irish background clubbed to death by police. In a successful large-scale mobilisation to prevent a fascist invasion by the National Front of the SE London Lewisham town centre in 1977, an area of relatively high Afro-Caribbean ethnic settlement (also of significant Irish), the main battles were with Met who were determined to bring the fascists through. In another defensive mobilisation in 1979 in the West London town centre of Southall, an area of high South Asian settlement, Australian antifascist Blair Peach, working in London was also killed by Met police baton.

We do not need to jump to conspiracy assassination attempt theories but we should keep an open mind in this case, consider the possibilities and question the Metropolitan Police handling of the case and their public statements. We also need to treat media handling with suspicion, particularly their non-critical acceptance of Metropolitan Police statements and even suggestions of “drive-by shooting” in US gang-banger tradition.

And to wish the victim a full and timely recovery.

End.

Sasha Johnson on a recent protest March in London (Credit photo: Times UK)

SOURCES

Early report of Johnson shooting: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/uk/black-lives-matter-activist-sasha-johnson-shot-in-the-head-in-london-1.4573068

Statement by Sasha Johnson’s political party: https://www.theinitiativeparty.org.uk/

Arrests by Metropolitan Police: https://edition.cnn.com/2021/05/28/uk/london-blm-activist-shooting-charge-intl-hnk/index.html

https://news.sky.com/story/sasha-johnson-second-teen-charged-with-conspiracy-to-murder-black-rights-activist-12330951

Philadelphia Police bombing of MOVE: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/may/10/move-1985-bombing-reconciliation-philadelphia

Malcolm X: https://www.thejournal.ie/collusion/news/

Martin Luther King: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Martin-Luther-King-Jr

Fred Hampton, Black Panther: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Hampton

London Metropolitan Police Racism: https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/parm-sandhu-met-police-racism-cressida-dick-b1858208.html

Mangrove Nine trial: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mangrove_Nine

Mc Pherson Report re Stephen Lawrence murder case: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/the-lawrence-report-sir-william-macpherson-s-recommendations-1073018.html

WHY A.C.A.B?

POLICING IN THE USA

Extract

“20-year old Daunte Wright was killed on April 11th, 2021 in Brooklyn Center, a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota by a cop (26 year veteran) who allegedly mistook their own gun for a taser. On March 3rd, 2021, Daisha Smalls’ 1 year old child was shot in the head by cops in Houston, Texas while they were chasing a robbery suspect. On March 29th, 13 year old Adam Toledo was shot and killed in Chicago after being chased down by a cop. The Atlanta, Georgia mass shooter who targeted Asian women in massage parlours was said to have “had a bad day” in a statement from Captain Jay Baker, a cop with a history of anti-Asian social media posts. Capitol police were caught taking pictures with domestic terrorists and QAnon fuckwits (oh sorry… “protestors”) in January as they stormed the Capitol Building to protest Biden’s inevitable presidency. These are just some examples from 2021.”

https://orderandanarchy.ca/2021/04/20/acab-and-other-overdue-lessons-from-the-thin-blue-line-continued-unfortunately/

Extract

According to Mapping Police Violence, 319 people have been killed by police in the USA alone since January 1st, 2021. Hell, there were only 18 days in 2020 when cops didn’t kill somebody. Lots of people aren’t going home to their families, their spouses, or their friends because of run-ins with the “thin blue line” and we’re supposed to accept it. We’ve been conditioned to believe that cops are always making the best call and actively keeping communities safe from bad guys and miscreants. Anyone who dies at their hands probably had a good reason to be shot, tased, beaten, or otherwise neglected. “They should have complied” we hear. “They shouldn’t have run” they argue. “Just be polite” they claim again and again.

Image with thanks from Order & Anarchy (see link for article)

Irish Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Denounce Israeli Government

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 2 mins.)

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has described comments by the Government of Israel as “nonsense”. “We all know what happened here. Don’t be hiding behind excuses,” he told RTÉ radio’s Today with Claire Byrne show.

Mr Martin said that the action of the Israeli authorities was contrary to decency and democratic values. The Taoiseach said he was worried about the growing authoritarianism in the world. “It was not acceptable. Democratic countries had to stand up.”

Referring to the armed boarding of Irish relief ships bound for Gaza in 2010, he said it had been a “State-sponsored” coercive act, it was absolutely unacceptable.

The Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Mícheál Martin denouncing action by the regime (Photo sourced: Internet)

Mr Martin said he was meeting with Ministers from Lithuania and Greece to discuss a coordinated EU response and a strong response from the EU was now required.

Coveney condemned Israel for ‘hijacking’ of Irish ship

The Israeli armed boarding of an Irish ship amounted to “piracy”, the Foreign Affairs Minister has said. Simon Coveney said the incident in 2010, which saw a relief ship from Ireland to Gaza boarded over a supposed security concern, was a “state-sponsored hijacking”.

Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney who denounced the regime (Photo sourced: Internet)

Mr Coveney said that the Israeli regime “has no democratic legitimacy” and called on the EU to show a “clear and tough response”. He told RTE radio he “would like to speak to” the Israeli consul in Dublin, but stopped short of advocating the banishment of all diplomats across the EU.

There has to be “a real edge” to any sanctions imposed and the EU must go beyond “strong press releases”, he added.

REALITY

Yes, reader, you’re right, that response from Irish Government Ministers was regarding the recent Belarus forcing down of a plane and never occurred during the recent Israeli attack on Gaza (nor in 2014, nor in 2008), nor during its illegal armed boarding and seizing control of an Irish relief ship on the high seas in 2010. Because the Irish State generally takes its line from the USA, which in turn backs up Israel. Belarus however has only Russia backing it and the EU and the USA power blocs are opposed to the Russian one.

In May 2010, when the Gaza flotilla relief convoy was seized (and Turkish citizens killed) by Israeli armed forces, the Irish ship was delayed and sailed later but was also seized in June, forced to go to an Israeli port, the possessions of all crew and passengers seized, their computer and phone memories inspected and they were kept in jail until sent back by plane (often without their possessions). The Irish Government did complain but without denouncing the Israeli Government in the same terms, nor did it call for EU-wide action and, once the Irish citizens were returned, quietly dropped the whole matter.

REFERENCES:

https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40296995.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaza_journey_of_MV_Rachel_Corrie

DUBLIN RALLY CALLS FOR EXPULSION OF ISRAELI AMBASSADOR

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 7 mins.)

A rally today outside the Israeli Embassy in Dublin heard Palestinian speakers and an Irish socialist TD (Member of the Irish Parliament) denounce Israel’s attacks on Palestinians, its slaughter of civilians including children and women, call for sanctions against Israel and for its Ambassador to be expelled. The rally was jointly organised by Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Trinity BDS Campaign in solidarity with the Palestinians and with the general strike organised in Palestine.

Fatin Al Tamimi, Chair of the IPSC, opened the meeting, welcoming people and, to loud cheers, declared that she is “a Palestinian and proud to be a Palestinian”.  Fatin went on to list the numbers of Palestinians dead and injured, the numbers of those who were women and children and called the Israeli regime “racist, apartheid” and murderous and called for the boycott of Israeli goods, alluding to the famous 1970s Dunne’s Stores workers’ strike in support of boycott of South African goods during the white minority apartheid regime.  Fatin’s pauses were punctuated by demonstrators chanting “Free, free Palestine!” and “Boycott Israel!”  At one point she said that she had children born here but they would also always be Palestinian and she hoped one day to go back and to welcome all the Irish supporter to a free Palestine, which brought a tremendous cheer from the crowd.

Fatin Al Tamimi, Chairperspon of the IPSC, opening the rally. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

She introduced Wesam Ahmed, from Al Haq, the main Palestine human rights organisation, who spoke through an audio link from Palestine.

Dr. Ibrahim Natil, a DCU academic also spoke, as did Zayd, representing Trinity BDS Campaign.

All the speakers called for stepping up of solidarity action, boycott, divestment and sanctions but also for action by the Irish government, both in their current temporary membership of the United Nations Security Council and in the EU.

Richard Boyd Barrett TD told the crowd that he and Gino Kelly and Paul Murphy had all tackled Mícheál Martin in the Dáil (Irish Parliament) earlier during Taoiseach’s Questions and Martin had claimed he had criticised Israel while also criticising the rockets fired by Hamas.  Boyd Barrett said that we had to get rid of this discourse of equivalence because there is no equivalence between the positions of the Israeli Zionists and the Palestinians, neither in terms of justice nor in power, military or otherwise.

Fatin Tamimi also called for solidarity with all the Palestinian political prisoners

Dr. Ibrahim Natil speaking (Photo: D.Breatnach)
Zayd of Trinity BDS Campaign speaking. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

GARDA HARASSMENT CONTINUES

The Irish police, the Gardaí continued to display on Tuesday the hostility they had exhibited in advance of last Saturday’s demonstration, when they threatened the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign that if they went ahead with their advertised rally the Gardaí would intervene and threatened the organisers with €5,000 fines and possible jail sentences.  Fortunately the Trinity BDS Campaign group had stepped in and held the rally, which turned into a march supported by several thousand.

A Garda beckons traffic on. Gardaí kept the road open despite the inevitable crowd spillover on to the street and then pressured people into crowding closer, despite that clearly going against Covid19 transmission precautions. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

The Gardaí began on Tuesday by telling supporters as they arrived that they were required to spread out to social distancing but were soon ushering people in towards one another.  A woman next to me complained to a Garda that he was moving her into close proximity with other people and violation of social distancing — the Garda shrugged.  As they continued to urge people to push in towards the already crowded space, the Gardaí continually urged traffic to come through and kept repeating to rally supporters that “The road is open”.  Indeed it was and the question is why was it open?  Clearly forcing traffic through put people in danger of vehicle impact or Covid19 infection; the safest measure and easily enough done would have been to divert the traffic before it reached the rally.  But no — the Palestinian solidarity supporters were to be shown that the Gardaí are not to be gainsaid.

Standing the line. Some women took their position on the white line dividing the traffic lanes, declining to be pushed into the crowd by the Gardaí. (Photo: D.Breatnach)

PLACARDS

I find it interesting to collect some photos of the placards displayed at these events and in particular, some of the homemade ones.  These are interesting in a number of ways, some humorous, some very pointed, some quite artistic but they are all also individual expressions and a kind of commitment, to make something in advance to bring to the demonstration or rally.

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

There was one in Irish but sadly the only one I could find.  Will there be more at the next demonstration? If the Irish language is not audible and visible in the progressive sector of society, how are we to expect it to survive, never mind thrive?

A SPACE FOR THE YOUTH

As the rally came to an end, one could observe Palestinian and some other youth, many in their teens coming together to chat but also to chant slogans.  I have seen this before and it appears that this point in events is their space — but it is a dangerous one with the event formally ended and the organisers dispersing, making it easier for repressive moves to be made against them or also to be led into acts which may end in their arrest.  Of course it is the organisers dispersing, adults socialising etc that also allows them to make it their space. 

The youth need a space of their own but one which is also safe and in which they can be helped to consider consequences and effective action.  Generally political organisations do not give the youth that space and, when they do, tend to confine them to following the line of the leaders, who are generally much older.

Young people at the end of the rally. (Photo: D.Breatnach)
More young people at end of rally (Photo: D.Breatnach)

If organisations do not provide those spaces and assist the youth in self-organising, the likelihood is that others will and, in the case of Palestinians or Arabs in general, those others may be Islamic fundamentalists.

RALLY AGAIN NEXT SATURDAY, 2pm at the Spire, Dublin.

(Photo: D.Breatnach)

POSTSCRIPT COMMENT:

There is a slight sense of futility in what speakers ask us to do because justified as the calls are, there seems little hope of convincing most of our politicians of breaking radically with the western imperialist alliance, even though Ireland is not, generally speaking, itself an imperialist country.  And yes, we can continue boycotting but how much of the stock in the supermarkets continues to be from Israel?  And when it is, if one supermarket comes under heavy pressure, the management will often just temporarily remove the products from the targeted shop while they continue to be sold in the others.  And once the pressure is off, the produce might be back on the shelves.  And even if they’re not ….  What can we actually DO that will make a real difference?  

In one way, nothing, since the USA is the main backer of the Zionist state and the USA is the world’s major superpower.  But in another way, we are making a difference, though it is not easy to see sometimes.  Despite our rulers, Ireland has become the most pro-Palestinian country in Europe.  Out of that may come great things in the future.

But it seems to me that there is more that we could do.  Many Irish trade unions formally support the Palestinians — could they not put a motion in their annual conferences calling on the Government to expel the Ambassador?  Could they not at least put a pro-Palestinian poster on each workplace union noticeboard and also advertise each solidarity march?  I know that the unions are not anything like the fighting organisations they once were but that above is surely not asking too much.

end.

(Photo: D.Breatnach)
Section of the crowd seen from above (Photo: D.Breatnach)
I wish I had got a closeup photo of this placard but couldn’t see it again as the crowd broke up (Photo: D.Breatnach)
I thought I had caught the whole placard but clearly did not — I thought the whole text said that “Resistance is made in Palestine” and “We stand with Palestine” but on another’s page saw that what is said was “Courage is made in Palestine” and “we stand with you”.
(Photo: D.Breatnach)
The only one i nGaeilge, is trua a rá. (Photo: D.Breatnach)
You can probably work out that “occupation” is the word partly missing in the photo. (Photo: D.Breatnach)
(Photo: D.Breatnach)
(Photo: D.Breatnach)
(Photo: D.Breatnach)
(Photo: D.Breatnach)
Someone is sure to grab that for a quotation (Photo: D.Breatnach)

INTERNATIONALIST SOLIDARITY – THE DIVIDING LINE BETWEEN THE PEOPLE AND OUR RULERS

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time: 12 mins.)

The oppression of the Palestinians led to an outbreak of active resistance recently in Jerusalem, to which the Israeli Army reacted with increased repression, timed to harass Palestinian Muslims during the period of Ramadan and the height of devotees attending the Al-Aqsa mosque, escalating into attacks on worshippers within the temple itself. At the same time, Israeli Zionist settlers threatened dozens of Palestinian families with eviction from their homes in East Jerusalem. Reacting to these events, one of the Palestinian organisations fired home-made rockets into officially Israeli territory, to which the Israeli armed forces responded in turn with drone missiles and missiles from its air force jets on Gaza. As Palestinians in the West Bank came out on to the streets to protest, they were fired on with live ammunition by Israeli soldiers. The death toll has climbed to 200 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, including 59 children and 35 women, with 1,305 people wounded; while ten Israelis have been killed, two of them children.

The casualty figures once again show the gross disproportion between what the Palestinians and their Zionist masters experience: in civil and human rights, citizenship, in land ownership, electricity and clean water supply, heating, fishing, education facilities, building materials, freedom to travel inside and outside the state, in depth and breadth of surveillance, in arms and defence capability, in states that support them. And in city structural damage: despite the many home-made rockets launched against the zionists, there has yet been no significant damage in Israeli towns, while their armed forces have effected large-scale structural damage in Gaza and bodies are still being pulled from the rubble.

In only one area perhaps do the Palestinians have the advantage over the Israeli Zionists: in support among the people around the world.

Israeli Zionist missiles strike the tower housing many media services, including Associated Press and Al Jazeera, which drew broad criticism from the mass media for a change. But families also lived here. Everyone was given ten minutes to get out. The Israeli Occupation Force has not yet bothered to explain its rationale for targeting this building. (Photo source: Internet)

PALESTINIAN SOLIDARITY MARCH DEFIES POLICE THREATS

Responding to these attacks on Palestinians the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the main organisation for Palestinian solidarity in Ireland, called for solidarity demonstrations and in particular advertised a solidarity rally to take place in Dublin’s city centre for 2pm on Saturday 15th May, asking those in attendance to comply with measures against Covid19 infection, to wear masks, maintain social distancing and comply with stewards’ instructions.

The IPSC was contacted by the Irish police force, the Gardaí, who told them not to go ahead with the event, that if they did they would intervene to stop it and also made threats of €5,000 fines and prison against the organisers. In a later public statement the Gardaí declared that they “have no role in permitting or authorising marches or gatherings. There is no permit/ authorisation required for such events”! But there is apparently an ability and power to intimidate and threaten progressive organisations to deter them from organising solidarity events.

Or to kettle socialist and socialist republican Mayday marchers and demand all their names, addresses and dates of birth before threatening them with arrest if they did not disperse. Or to threaten Debenham workers and their supporters, assaulting some of them while escorting KPMG forces in to evaluate stocks during pandemic restrictions.

A Palestinian policeman stands among the rubble of the tower in Gaza recently occupied by families and media agencies. (Photo source: Internet)

The predicament of the IPSC exposed the vulnerability to this kind of intimidation of a broad organisation that seeks to win friends in ruling circles. The leaders and organisers are placed in a position of not only personal but also of organisational vulnerability. Even should they be prepared to defy the State to fine and/or imprison them, would they also be prepared to damage their organisation, to lose some friends they are cultivating in the circles of political influence? What was one of the strengths of a broad organisation can thus be converted into a weakness, whereas a more radical or even revolutionary organisation, with less influence in influential circles can decide on defiance, risk fines and jail with however perhaps less possibility of influencing official opinion and ultimately, action.

Fortunately in this case one such organisation did step forward and took up the baton: the Trinity College BDS group expressed its solidarity with the IPSC on its treatment by the Gardaí and called their own rally for the exact same place and time as the original one called by the IPSC.

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/thousands-attend-rallies-in-irish-cities-in-solidarity-with-palestine-1.4566435

Video of rally at end of demonstration, near Israeli Embassy

Despite concern over Covid19 transmission and Garda threats – and the extremely short notice and much smaller circle of contacts of the TC BDS group — the response was magnificent, both in expression of internationalist solidarity and in maintenance of the right of the people in Ireland to organise such progressive events.

Before the appointed hour, people began to gather in large numbers at the Spire in O’Connell Street, Dublin’s main street and north city centre and, after being addressed by a number of speakers, set off in a march towards the Israeli Zionist Embassy near Ballsbridge, beyond the south city centre. As they marched their numbers grew until, approaching the Embassy, they numbered several thousand. Along the way, bystanders applauded the marchers and passing vehicles blew their horns in solidarity.

A section of the Dublin rally in solidarity with Palestine photographed outside the GPO in the city’s main street before they set off on the 5.5km march to the Israeli Embassy (Photo credit: PA, Breaking News)

Marchers shouted slogans of solidarity with the Palestinians, calling for the freedom of Palestine and the expulsion of the Israeli Ambassador as a mark of the Irish people’s objection to what is being done to the Palestinians.

Near the Embassy, a number of speakers addressed the crowd and after dispersing, a number of demonstrators boarding public transport to return home were congratulated by the drivers.

LESSONS FOR US

The situation regarding calling and holding the demonstration in Dublin outlined some of the weaknesses of a broad organisation when it faces repression from the State and the greater resilience of a smaller organisation in being able to defy the State. It may be necessary in future to maintain support for both types of organisation, each being appropriate for particular situations.

Also demonstrated was the necessity to openly defy unjust laws and prohibitions at times and particularly around the right to organise, to protest and to show solidarity, which the demonstrators did so well on Saturday. Such situations also reveal the difficulty for the Gardaí in carrying out repressive actions and they are reduced to threatening individuals.

THE FAR-RIGHT MARCHES TOO – FOR WHAT?

Meanwhile, a couple of hundred of the far-Right also marched in Dublin, allegedly in defence of civil liberty. Not in solidarity with the Palestinians’ civil liberties and not in defence of our civil liberty to organise to show solidarity with people in other struggles. No, they marched in defence of the right to defy health protection regulations, in proclaiming the Covid19 pandemic to be a) a hoax or b) greatly exaggerated, in claiming that wearing masks damages one’s health and even intelligence(!), in insisting that vaccinations are a) dangerous to one’s health or b) means of injecting nano-machines into people’s bloodstream in order to control them.

A clip posted by Ireland Against Fascism showed one of the QAnon Saturday screechers for months outside the GPO, Dolores Webster, aka Dee Wall, lately self-declared “digital journalist” (don’t laugh), in total ignorance of the actual reality (but when has that mattered?), broadcast a claim by video from her studio (her car), accompanied by the strains of Abba from the headphones of her head-bobbing passenger, that the “scum in the Dawl” had allowed the Palestinian solidarity march to go ahead to distract from the alleged general removal of freedom and in particular from the far-Right group Irish Yellow Vests to hold their rally on May 1st.

When all the Covid19 precautionary restrictions are removed, what will these elements have to march about? The will need to return to the topics that engaged many of them in the recent past: racism, anti-immigrants, islamophobia, homophobia and anti-socialism, along with their false patriotism. None of that is welcome of course but at least it will be without this false concern for “civil rights and freedom” and closer to the reality of what the far-Right in general stand for – and fascists in particular.

SUPERPOWER BACKING AND IMPUNITY

The current atrocities of the Zionist State, which it carries out with impunity, along with its history, starkly reveals the effect of its main backing power, the USA, and the imperialist alliance dominated by that Power. The USA backs Israel with military aid to the tune of $10 Million daily, which is aside from other direct and indirect aid. Israel is the only state in the Middle East which is not only very friendly to the USA but totally dependent on the support of that superpower. For the ruling class of the USA, Israel is the only state in the Middle East which is totally safe forever from fundamentalist Muslim revolution or from left-wing anti-imperialist revolution and is therefore an extremely important factor in the USA’s plans to totally dominate the Middle East.

Solidarity marcher in Dublin on Friday with a home-made placard (Photo Credit: PA, Breaking News.ie)

This imperialist alliance finds reflection not only in the action/ inaction of governments in Europe, for example but also in the reporting of the mass media. One of the latter’s tropes is the constant emphasis on the numbers of Palestinian missiles fired, without revealing their general ineffectiveness in delivering destruction, in total contrast to the Israeli missiles. Another is their constant repetition of a lie, that “Hamas seized power in Gaza”. The truth is that Hamas swept the board in the Palestinian Authority elections in 2006. The “seizing” that was done was by Al Fatah, which usurped the results in the West Bank and installed themselves there; they tried to do the same in Gaza and, in a short fierce struggle, were beaten.

But the Western powers decided that Hamas was illegitimately in power, seized funds due to it and supported its blockading – by both Israel and Egypt. No explanation is offered in the general mass media as to how a generally politically-secular Palestinian public would turn from its decades of allegiance to Fatah to vote for the fundamentalist Muslim Hamas, which was Fatah’s surrender of the goals of Palestinian independence and freedom and the return of the refugees, in exchange for running a colonial administration with opportunities for living off bribery and corruption and Fatah’s settling down to that status quo.

CASTING A GIANT DARK SHADOW

It was not only in Dublin and in towns across Ireland that Palestine solidarity demonstrations were held on May 15th but by people across much of the world, generally in opposition to the wishes of their governments and ruling elites. It is worth thinking about how this has come about, in particular in contradiction to a mass media hostile to the Palestinians.

Palestinians come to view the remains of the tower block that was home to families and that housed a number of media agencies. (Photo source: Internet)

The Zionist state of Israel was declared in 1948, its anniversary actually only three days ago – May 14th, the first states to recognise it being the USA and the USSR. In Ireland at the time, there was general support for the new state which continued to the “June War” of 1967 and somewhat beyond. The general Irish population were horrified by the history of the Nazi-organised Holocaust and sympathised with the Jewish survivors. Irish nationalists and even Republicans empathised with the Zionist civil and armed struggle against the British (who, ironically, had begun the process of Zionisisation of Palestine). The 1966 film Cast a Giant Shadow purporting to show that struggle, starring Kirk Douglas and a cameo appearance by Frank Sinatra, was widely enjoyed and cheered in cinemas across Ireland. Though some of the film’s characters were based on real-life counterparts, the general narrative was a grotesque distortion, hiding the massacres of Palestinians and the expulsion of thousands as the Zionist state was created.

Many Irish language supporters admired how the new state had brought the Hebrew language, for centuries only spoken in religious contexts, back into everyday usage.

Solidarity marcher in Dublin on Friday with a home-made placard and a thought-provoking message (Photo Credit: Sam Boal, The Journal)

Yet, a few years ago, general pro-Palestinian sympathy across Ireland had become so strong that Israel’s Ambassador to Ireland declared the country “the most anti-semitic in Europe”. That of course is what the Zionists call anyone who supports the Palestinians or criticises the Israeli state harshly and only a few days ago, the current Ambassador accused some politicians of spewing hate towards Israel. He was responding not only to Left and Sinn Féin TDs who criticised the actions of Israel towards the Palestinians, but also to the Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister equivalent) Leo Varadkar who commented that Israel’s actions are “indefensible” and Government Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, who said at an EU conference that the EU had “fallen short” and failed to project its influence in agreeing a common position in opposition to illegal activity by the Israelis against Palestinians.

Palestinian solidarity march in Cork on Saturday (Photo source: Internet)

The fact that establishment right-wing politicians feel obliged to take a public stand, however ineffectively, against actions of the Israeli Zionists and implicitly against the Zionists’ biggest international backer and world superpower, the USA, is a strong indication of how much Irish public opinion has changed over decades. Since the Cast a Giant Shadow film, the state’s shadow of which we are aware now is indeed frighteningly giant and very dark. In response, the natural cultural and historical feelings of the Irish people have stirred in sympathy with the oppressed Palestinians – and in defiance of threatened police repression at home.

end.

SOURCES

Coverage of events in Ireland: https://www.thejournal.ie/peacful-protests-solidarity-with-palestine-5438356-May2021/

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/thousands-attend-rallies-in-irish-cities-in-solidarity-with-palestine-1.4566435

https://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/protests-held-around-the-country-in-support-of-palestine-1127787.html

Recent reports on the conflict: https://www.nbcphiladelphia.com/news/national-international/weary-gaza-marks-muslim-feast-as-violence-spreads-in-israel/2812715/

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-57138996

Israeli Ambasador to Ireland clashing with politicians: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/politics/israeli-ambassador-accuses-some-tds-of-spewing-hate-towards-jewish-state-1.4564184

GOVERNMENT SLAUGHTER IN COLOMBIA

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 5 mins.)

For months the Duque government in Colombia has been unleashing violent repression on its people, in particular those who organise or participate in protests. The statistics are frightening, which is what they are intended to be: 40 dead, hundreds injured (some with loss of an eye), nearly 170 “disappeared”. Yet the people continue to protest.

What all this has exposed is that Colombia, despite its support by western states, has no democracy and that its vaunted “peace process”, like all others elsewhere before it or since, has had nothing to do with peace but everything to do with pacification. Unlike many in other parts of the world however, its acceptance by the FARC was the prelude to intensified State repression, with assassinations of leaders and activists of popular democratic movements. Also exposed is the lie that Colombia and the USA are truly involved in a “War on Drugs”, a commodity the sale of in which most of the political class of Colombia are involved and the profits in which the financial institutions in Colombia and much of the world are active in laundering.

Meanwhile, the people are subjected to economic squeeze, they protest, they are shot, beaten, tortured, raped, disappear ….

This police victim survived but many did not (Photo source: Gearóid Ó Loingsigh)

In two weeks of protests, statistics from the Defensoria del Pueblo (a kind of Ombudsman), listed 42 dead and 168 reported “disappeared”; of the dead, 41 were civilians and one was a member of the State security forces. A 17-year-old female demonstrator was reportedly sexually abused by four police officers and took her own life afterwards. Protesters burned the station where it happened but the officers themselves remain at large.

Protestors burning the station where police officers sexually violated a 17-year-old demonstrator who took her own life afterwards.

WHO KILLED VILLA?

Lucas Villa Vasquez, an iconic figure in the peaceful demonstrations, dancing and carrying out acrobatic acts, was shot during the General Strike, was declared brain dead in hospital and had his life-support system turned off, his heart stopping finally on 11th of May. Andrés Felipe Castaño, a 17-year-old youth shot on the same day underwent two operations before he could come off the critical list.

Who killed Villa? Not Duque, the President wanted people to believe as he sent a message of condolence to Villa’s family, the first personal condolence he has offered since the demonstrations – and the killing – began, except for the one police officer killed so far. Not the Police, their Director General, Major General Jorge Luis Vargas Valencia insisted, insisting his force is working hard to find the culprits and that a reward for information has risen to 100 million pesos1 for information. But people who know how these things work are only in doubt about one question: was it the police themselves who killed Villa and nearly killed Andrés Felipe, or was it one of the State-sponsored fascist gangs (which have strong links with the police and army)?

Dilan Cruz, murdered by police two years ago, is remembered on demonstrations where people are still being killed. (Photo source: Gearóid Ó Loingsigh)

Villa has joined over 40 martyrs known to have been killed by the forces of the State; since their names are known only to their families or smaller political and social circles, Villa’s name stands for them all. As did Dilan Cruz before him, shot at close range to the head by a “non-lethal” beanbag in October 2019. And what of the nearly 170 disappeared? Are some of them already dumped into pits or rivers? Others in prison cells, awaiting their next session with the torturers? Or in the case of female prisoners, awaiting their next incident of violation?

Man in blue top and white trousers dancing in some clips was Lucas Villa Vasquez

Two Latin American league soccer matches in Colombia were affected on Wednesday: Visitors from Argentina’s River Plate team had their warm-up in Barranquilla abandoned for awhile due to the volume of police tear gas drifting in from outside and loud bangs could be heard also. That was a Copa Libertadores game and another, between Atletico Nacional and Nacional of Uruguay in Pereira was delayed by an hour due to protests there.

The South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL) moved matches from Colombia to Paraguay and Ecuador last week to ensure the protests did not affect games but the Copa America is due to be held in Colombia and Argentina next month with Colombia hosting 15 games including the final of the world’s oldest international tournament. The title match is due to be held in Barranquilla on July 10.

SUSTAINABLE SOLIDARITY” WITH WHOM?

Part of the reason for the protests in the first place was the proposed tax reform by another name: Sustainable Solidarity Law. The Duque Government plans by this system to collect 23 billions in Colombian pesos (US$ 6,300 millions) by extending its tax base, to avoid any further increase in the country’s international risk qualification, to institutionalise the basic income level and build a fund to comply with its environmental protection targets.

Well, ok, but who is going to pay this tax-by-another name? According to the Minister of Finance himself, Alberto Carrasquilla, 73% is to be contributed by ordinary citizens and the rest by the companies.

Art in active resistance

In addition, the law proposes to apply the collection of Value Added Tax, which in Colombia is up to 19%, to basic consumer products such as public services (water, electricity and gas), funeral services, electronic items such as computers and other services that have been exempt until now.

Add to that ongoing State repression in the countryside, the number of unemployed nationally rising to 4.1 million as a result of the pandemic and the country was ready to take to the streets. But not ready for the repression of the demonstrators that followed.

Riot Policeman aims weapon at point-blank range at unarmed demonstrators in Colombia. Whether tear-gas canister or stun grenade launcher, at this range it would almost certainly kill but if not, partial or full blindness would be likely along with permanent brain damage. (Photo source: Internet)

President Duque asked the Colombian Parliament to withdraw the new tax reform which they did but the people are on their feet now, as they say there; now they have martyrs too on top of the issues they already had.

WHAT CAN BE DONE?

It is up to the people of Colombia, the workers, civil servants, small business people, indigenous – to free themselves. None else can do it. But we owe them solidarity, just as we in turn have claimed solidarity (and will claim again) from others. It is difficult at the moment to see how our solidarity can express itself in much more than symbolic form, such as pickets, demonstrations, articles and memes on social media. But even those have more than a moral effect, for the Colombian Embassy staff here have as part of their duties to collect information on how the regime in Colombia is viewed in Ireland and to report that to their bosses at home. And since the Colombian ruling class needs to do business around the world ….

Recent small Colombian solidarity picket protest outside the Colombian Embassy in Dublin.

The Colombian masses also need to know that they do not stand alone, that others are watching, applauding them, cursing their enemies, mourning their martyrs.

We can also assist by continuing our efforts against another faraway enemy of democracy, the main instigator and protector of reaction, repression and oppression around the world, and main external supporter of the Colombian regime, trainer of its repressive forces – the ruling class of the United States of America.

Solidaridad con el pueblo Colombiano! Dlúthpháirtíocht le poball na Colóime!

Banner slogan: “The Tax Reform means Hunger and Misery for the people.” (Photo source: Gearóid Ó Loingsigh)

End.

USEFUL SOURCES

Officially-accepted statistics some days ago: https://www.facebook.com/waykaperu/photos/a.586123314805406/4058327907584912/

TV news report on the general strike, general protests against killing by government forces; mothers and grandmothers of murdered protesters demonstrate against “Public Order” forces; Duque tries to present concern and gives a concession to students at a certain level: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xz8ed0hS6OQ

Amnesty International complaint (English version, despite title): https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2021/05/colombia-preocupan-las-denuncias-de-desapariciones-y-violencia-sexual-contra-manifestantes/

Tear gas drifting on to inter-Latin American soccer game: https://edition.cnn.com/2021/05/13/football/copa-libertadores-players-affected-tear-gas-colombia-spt-intl/index.html

Reasons for the wave of protests: https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-56932013

War on Drugs (Plan Colombia) – spraying of glyphosphate: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2020/06/pandemic-upends-colombia-s-controversial-drug-war-plan-resume-aerial-spraying

Plan Colombia is not working (2016): https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-35491504

1 €22,185.95

PRE-DEATH WISHES OF BOBBY SANDS NOT FOLLOWED

Comment by Anthony McIntyre

He also asked not to be wrapped in a shroud but a blanket. The idea of a shroud he found humiliating.
His remains being wrapped in a blanket was not a shock. The blanket had defined the prison protest and he identified as a blanketman, even telling British secretary of state Roy Mason “bury me in my blanket.” 

https://www.thepensivequill.com/2021/05/just-full-uncensored-words-of-bobby.html?

FLYING TURTLES, SF VOTER PROFILES AND POSSIBLY EXTENDED LOCKDOWN

Clive Sulish

(Reading time: 5 mins.)

Skimming through some of the material posted on the internet today as “breaking news”, I came across items under the categories listed above.

To take the first, a car driver on Interstate 95 highway in Florida was stunned by an object that flew through her windscreen and struck her on the head. Luckily for her and her mother who was a passenger, the woman managed to guide the car to the roadside where her mother summoned assistance.

A man who stopped to help was surprised to find a turtle among the broken glass inside the car but not as surprised as both women.

The media report speculated that the turtle was probably crossing the road and got knocked into the air by another vehicle.

Though there was a lot of blood as is often the case with a scalp wound, the woman was not badly injured. “I swear to God this lady has the worst luck of anything,” the daughter told the 911 operator as she tended to her injured mother, according to the report. Her daughter will no doubt remember those words of comfort for a long time.

What about the turtle? According to a Port Orange police officer, the turtle was uninjured apart from some scratches on its shell and was released into some local woods (where it has no doubt gained legendary status already among the local wildlife; hopefully the woods were in the direction in which it had been headed, so it did not have to cross the road once more).

In this part of the world we tend to think of turtles as those big marine animals or, for some, as little stripey shellback reptiles kept in aquaria. There are actually four species of native land turtles in Europe, which we call “tortoises”, found mostly around the Mediterranean and at one time it was not unusual to have one as a pet in Ireland, even at loose in the garden, where dogs, cats and other predators eventually learned the uselessness of attacking them. Sometimes they survived winters by hibernation and lived on for years, becoming quite accustomed to their owners, extending their heads out of their shell to accept bits of lettuce from people, etc. Perhaps the expression of a shy person “emerging from their shell” comes from such instances.

The cute little stripey ones in the aquarium if they lived could grow to a similar size as their land cousins but unlike European tortoises, were carnivorous. There are seven European species of which two have been introduced but none indigenous or large-scale colonisers here or in Britain (yet, at any rate – but see concern about the “Florida Turtle” invasion).

These animals in general on land or in water when fully grown are about a foot long at most but the shell adds considerable weight.

The United States is home to more species of tortoises and freshwater turtles (which we call “terrapins”), along with marine turtles than any other country in the world – 57 of the world’s 320 currently recognized species. A handful of the turtles of the Florida state are land-dwellers and like most land-dwellers, have on occasion to cross those avenues of death: roads and motorways. Which is why predators and scavengers regularly patrol these for the motor vehicle-impact corpses strewn along them.

In areas where deer might be expected to be encountered crossing the road, or even in areas near airports, traffic signs warn of the possible danger of accidental impact. Can we now expect flying turtle warning signs in Florida?

SINN FÉIN AND THEIR VOTER DATABASE

Shock and horror greeted the news that the Sinn Féin political party has a voter database. Really, how could they! Yes, they keep track of who voted for them so they can call them out for a repeat vote when they need to. Of course, most political parties do that but … but … this is different!

Actually, SF are probably emulating Dublin Fianna Fáil in this respect – it was said years ago that a Dublin FF Councillor could name his voters and that a FF T.D (parliamentary representative) could name the streets in their constituency where the majority voted for them. And since SF are emulating FF in so many other ways, why not? As one of the party’s policy advisors Éoin Ó Broin remarked also, they are “a professional party” – yes indeed.

Eoin Ó Broin TD, SF spokesperson on Housing answering press questions (photo: Gareth Chaney/ Collins)

The next horror revelation was not only that SF had such a database but that they had removed it from its usual location and lodged it somewhere else – Serbia! However this turned out to be a complete invention based on the fact that one SF member was married to a Serb. Really? A whole scandal was built on that?

So if not Serbia, where is that database now? In Germany, boss of the EU, it is rumoured, though Ó Broin declined to say. Well that’s alright then. But where was it before? In Britain, it turns out, from where SF moved it due to the UK’s Brexit. The state whose invaders Irish people have been fighting for eight-and-a-half centuries and which is still in military occupation of one-sixth of our land. Of course, no worry there for our political class and media – but Serbia! Thankfully it was never there.

POSSIBLY EXTENDED LOCKDOWN

It is reported that Leo Varadkar, the Tánaiste (like Prime Minister in Irish government) said publicly that he is not as confident as he was recently about the pace of relaxation of restrictions.

Those who are hostile to Varadkar and his party, or even the whole Government Coalition may let forth an expletive while the vast majority who are sick of restrictions on so many levels of normal life may groan in despair. But Varadkar is right to be cautious.

He has been made so, he says by the state’s experience in December, when the Government ignored their medical advisors and strong statements from left-wing TDs and, under pressure from commercial interests, relaxed the restrictions in the run-up to the Christmas period. A spike in rates of Covid19 infections and death rates a few weeks later was the result.

Currently infection rates in the state have fallen to the lowest level since October last year (i.e before the disastrous decision to relax restrictions) but even a composite table of a number of agencies’ predictions envisages a possible fall to 1,558 cases a week or 222 cases per day by May 15th. However that is still high enough and really the way to go is what has been advocated by left-wing TDs, which is a zero-level target. In a capitalist system that will not be the choice of the Government but rather one of managing the number of sick and tolerating the number of dead within “acceptable limits”. But hopefully the Government will at least wait until the vaccines are widely available and being administered, with testing stations throughout the state, before they risk any further relaxations of the restrictions.

We do not wish to return to the climbing rate of infection and hospital cases of earlier this year, nor do our hospital staff need any such repeat. And France and India have given graphic evidence of the penalties of too-early lifting of restrictions, if our own experience has not been enough.

End.

A US land turtle on a road (image sourced: Internet)

SOURCES:

(in case you don’t believe me): https://www.breakingnews.ie/world/flying-turtle-smashes-through-cars-windscreen-in-florida-1115824.html

https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/discover-herps/florida-amphibians-reptiles/turtles/

Photos: https://www.gertjanverspui.com/eu-species-list/reptiles-of-europe/terrapins-tortoises/

European invasion of the Florida Turtle: https://www.nytimes.com/1994/07/05/science/europe-fights-invasion-of-aggressive-american-turtles.html

SF voter database controversy: https://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/mary-lou-mcdonald-denies-wrongdoing-over-party-voter-database-1116020.html

Possibly extended lockdown: https://www.breakingnews.ie/ireland/covid-varadkar-not-as-confident-over-reopening-pace-as-some-days-ago-1115818.html

Covid19 crisis in France: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-56622471

In India: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/apr/22/india-hits-global-record-of-315000-new-daily-cases-as-covid-wave-worsens

Iván Ramírez: The Last in the Andino Case to be Freed (after nearly four years in jail)

Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

(Reading time: 6 mins.)

(16/04/2021)

Iván Ramírez was the last of those arrested for the Andino Case to be freed by the Colombian authorities after spending almost four years arrested as part of the legal frame up.  I spoke to him a number of weeks after his release.

Ivan Ramirez, managing to smile after his ordeal (Photo: G.Ó.Loingsigh).

Iván graduated from the National University as a sociologist and before his arrest he worked for the National Centre for Historical Memory (CNMH) as part of an accord with the official German international aid agency GIZ.  His work consisted of carrying out workshops to collate information on the murders and massacres committed against members of the Unión Patriótica in the department (administrative area) of Meta in order to build a Memory Centre in the city of Villavicencio.  This centre was never built and when his house was raided the Police took various files collected as part of his work.  He also worked on the issue of the infamous Massacre of Trujillo, carried out by the Third Division of the Army whose boss, not to say capo, Manuel Bonnet Locarno would become the highest commander of the State’s armed forces.  There was a chance of continuing to work with this body, but his arrest put paid to any hope of a new job with them and he went on to be part of another nefarious chapter in the Colombian State’s war on its own people.

At that time, I didn’t think about it, but neither was I unaware that the activity I was engaged in — e.g. academic or professional life — could have certain consequences.  Well, looking at our national history and context, you realise no one is immune from ending up in prison or being murdered for political reasons.  So I never thought I would end up being part of a judicial frame up.  Obviously in the context that one looks at the background and cases of other people that were also sociologists who had been victims of frame ups, well it was always possible, but it wasn’t on my mind.

Prior to his arrest, two of the people he had known in Meta in the context of his work with the CNMH were murdered.  Little did he know that in a short time he would go on to be part of the sad story of the dirty war against social fighters and the judicial frame ups.  Neither did he know that documents related to his legal work with a state body would be presented in court as evidence against him.  Almost every researcher of the Colombian conflict has a copy of the report ¡Basta Ya! (Enough!) published by the CNMH.

It was not the only document that they took from his house as evidence.

There were also texts on the history of the insurgencies that are also academic works in Colombia and in the hearing they were introduced, as propaganda texts when when they were really academic documents and there was one on the Quintin Lame armed movement which was also published by the National Centre for Historic Memory.  They are publicly available documents and as a professional you have to study them.

A prosecutor has to be really stupid or desperate in the face of the weakness of his case to introduce such documents in a trial.  Amongst the credits for these documents are the name of ministers and high-ranking politicians such as Germán Vargas Lleras, Angelino Garzón the former Vice-President of the country and the publication was financed by the European Union, the Spanish Embassy and the official wing of the US government USAID.  It would seem that the Prosecutor saw subversives everywhere.  Though it should be pointed out that this type of manoeuvre is common and there are many cases where the prosecutors introduced widely published books as evidence.  It would seem, on occasions that the prosecutors have not even read the Penal Code, less still would they read literature or sociological texts.

The evidence against him was not the only farce, his arrest seemed like an episode of Key Stone Cops.

I was arrested four times.  The first time was in Bogotá on public transport. I was going to meet my partner at some workshops she was doing to start working at Compensar.  I was in a public transport bus at about four in the evening, I was going towards the centre.  I was in the bus and some motorised cops stopped the bus.  They took three people off it.  They asked for our I.D. and they gave the I.D. back to the two others and let them go.  They detained me under the pretext that I was supposedly a burglar.  There was a white van behind the bus and one of the cops told me to get into it and that my accomplice was in it. When they opened the van, there was a very suspicious looking guy inside and the first thought that went through my head, was that they are going to do something to me, kill me or disappear me.

He didn’t want to get in the van and told the police that he didn’t trust them, but even so, they took him to the Police Station as a suspected burglar and moved him from one place to another at all times as a suspected burglar.  At last they took him in handcuffs to his apartment, whilst they interrogated him about his family.  When he got there two secret police officers turned up to search his home.

They went into the house and went through absolutely everything.  It began at 7.30 P.M. and lasted till 2 A.M.  It was an irregular procedure, when house searches are carried out after 7 P.M. there must be a representative of a supervisory body present and there wasn’t.  In the preliminary hearings, I was freed due to the illegal nature of my arrest.

THE “TALIBAN”

He went to Sasaima, a county in Cundinamarca, near Bogotá, seeking some peace and quiet, but the nightmare followed him there and he noticed the presence of plain clothes police following him and hanging around the town, which made him anxious as the difference between a plain clothes police officer and a paramilitary is one of opportunity and convenience.  In this second arrest he was presented to the media as the worst terrorist.  He was called alias The Taliban (1), perhaps a reference to his physical appearance or a play on words with his name, but as they later acknowledged this nickname was invented by the police themselves, but it was not the only stupidity in  the case.  When he shaved, this was presented as evidence of his presumed guilt by trying to change his appearance.  The process against him is a complete farce from start to finish.  But as a result of it he spent almost four years in prison and during his imprisonment his daughter was born and he could only see her during normal visits, once a fortnight.  The searches and treatment were the usual ones, a Colombian prisoner receives no special treatment for being the father of a newly born child, “to them, even if the person is blind or is paralysed in 90% of their body, they are just another prisoner”.

As a sociologist Iván well understands the problems of the country and the rampant inequality.  His experience in the prison confirmed that.  He saw the luxuries enjoyed by some and the poverty of others depending on the wing they were held on.  When he was in the Modelo Prison, for reasons unknown to him, he was transferred to Wing 3.  There he saw another prison world.

You see how people with money live inside the prison with lots of privileges whilst there were other prisoners who had nowhere to sleep, they had to make do with cardboard, no food.  On Wing 3 there was a lot more space and a library, it was impressive, a very good coffee shop and very good workshops.  There was a good gym, it was big with gym machines, not just free weights and ovens to cook with.

Ivan Ramirez in a serious moment (Photo: G.Ó.Loingsigh).

CAPITALISM WITHIN THE JAIL

Of course, on Wing 3 there were various high level prisoners, from the Odebrecht case (2) and also from Interbolsa (3).  It could also be seen in that some of the cells cost up to 12 million pesos (3000 euros), in addition to the monthly rent.  Property speculation takes place inside the walls, especially where there are prisoners of that ilk.  Capitalism doesn’t stop at the gate, but rather it reproduces itself within the prison system.

Iván was the last one to be freed.  As happened with the others the Prosecutors sought out judges in their pockets to justify the unjustifiable, and between those manoeuvres and the lethargy of the prison service in obeying orders, he was imprisoned over and again without ever really stepping out into freedom.  In one of his rearrests a Prosecutor from Popayán legalised his arrest in a court in Medellín when the criminal case is in Bogotá and then they applied a law passed after his first arrest and the events.  Although he did hold on to some hope, he knew that in Colombia many judges are not objective and don’t always make findings in law, causing him to despair, as happens with many prisoners in the country, who are unjustly imprisoned, at the mercy of the whim of the judge on duty, or as happens with many, they lack the money to hire a good lawyer.

After his last rearrest Iván did not go back to prison, instead he was held for various months in a Police Station, a place of detention which is supposedly temporary, although there are people held in them for up to a year or more, in places like that where the conditions of imprisonment are worse than in the jails, if that were possible.

In that Station, overcrowding was at 100%.  For example, in the cell I was in, it was very small, about 3 x 8 metres, or something like that and there were more than 100 people held in difficult sanitary conditions, you had sleep on top of each other and you couldn’t stretch. You spent the day sitting down, there was no way to walk or exercise.  The food was also rancid and you had to eat it.

His view of a certain class of prisoner changed having seen how some of them also fought for their dignity.  “The kid who sells drugs, the bloke who robs buses and others, are sometimes classed as worthless people, but it is simply the circumstances that bring people along a different path and that shouldn’t be judged but rather understood in all its complexity.”

Iván, the sociologist lived through a field work on the injustices of the legal system, the dirty war in Colombia, poverty, inequality that no one wants to go through.  His passage through the halls of injustice have not quenched his thirst for knowledge and like his fellow accused in the Andino Case he continues to be committed to a better future for this country.

end.

FOOTNOTES

  1. In Colombian Spanish, “that guy Ivan”, el tal Ivan, pronounced the same as “the Taliban”.

2. An international case of corruption involving a Brazilian company and construction projects throughout Latin America. On the Colombian case see (Spanish only): https://www.elespectador.com/noticias/judicial/los-hechos-claves-para-entender-el-escandalo-de-odebrecht/?fbclid=IwAR3CnKdgk1437318wa9quFgglqjpDq0j-8KJxjqm5j_p6rBcCVJ7pt7wT8I

3. Yet another financial scandal. https://noticias.caracoltv.com/informes-especiales/impunidad-la-otra-pandemia-que-paso-con-interbolsa-las-libranzas-y-otros-escandalos-de-corrupcion?fbclid=IwAR0TevfujBMdbWRUKsczbYrykP3J_bFf5aHH0xi5IWDP-5ACrfrv3dFqgwQ