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On Thursday evening fascist Phillip Dwyer and a number of other known fascists led a mob in threatening migrants encamped in the Mount Street/ Fenian Street/ Sandwith Street area on the north reaches of Dublin City Centre.
Dwyer, formerly of the fascist National Party and some of his cohorts had been there the previous night too but in smaller numbers, when he was met with opposition.
Migrants have for some time been camped out in that area near the International Protection Office of the Irish State which has a brief to help refugees. Those living in the tents say that little is being done in reality to help refugees and their encampment is an illustration of this.
On Thursday night Phillip Dwyer had brought a mob to at least intimidate the refugees but was faced off by antifascists. He had declared his intention to return.
On Friday in Sandwith Street, a number of people in ordinary clothes could be seen in confrontation with another group, with yellow-jacketed Gardaí and dark blue Public Order Unit between them. An Irish Tricolour and green Starry Plough waved on one side and a lone tricolour on the other.
Local people and some passers-by watched.
People who received a callout for antifascist support but arrived late experienced difficulty in getting into the antifascist sector, which was where the Tricolour and Starry Plough could be seen, due to the police line between there and the confronting mob.
For many antifascists it was a novel experience to be facing the backs of the Public Order Unit, normally drawn out against them, often with batons drawn (none of that seen on this occasion).
The dominant chanting was from the antifascist side, mostly of “Say it Loud and Say it Clear: Refugees are welcome here”, interspersed at times with “Homes for Need, not for Greed!” and another.
Though these slogans outline socialist positions they don’t directly address what the fascists were doing and some slogans need to be developed for that, for example pointing out that the fascists are dividing working people and assisting capitalism.
It was difficult to make out what the mob were shouting but individuals at times threw accusations of paedophilia at the migrants and antifascists. This is a common lie by fascists in Ireland and there has not been a single case among this refugee group to justify the accusation.
The refugees camped around there are actually causing nobody any harm, except perhaps embarrassment for the IPO and the Irish State. Journalists for the Cork Examiner and the Irish Times have both written sympathetic pieces about them recently (probably to the ire of Dwyer).
The area includes working-class flats complexes and higher-market-end housing, including a newly-completed block nearby where the rents are reportedly 2,000 euro a month for one-bedroom-units and 3,000 per month for two bedrooms.
And it is said that some low-rent units were promised but never delivered.
Of course, the Fascists and their followers don’t mobilise against that problem, caused by failure of the State to supply quality affordable housing units lest they compete with the property speculators, big landlords and financiers, although that would make general housing sense.
Fascists are an arm of the capitalist class, not its enemy and for their followers, it’s infinitely easier to pick on vulnerable refugees and other migrants than the rich and their State.
Some investigation carried out locally ascertained that although some local people were being fooled by the far-Right discourse, others blamed the Government. Some also said that a lot of the anti-refugee crowd were just in it for the fight and were not even locals.
However one should not underestimate the potential for fascists to mobilise disadvantaged people to split the working people as fascism and racism has done in the past.
A light moment occurred when one of the mob threw a plastic water bottle at the antifascists. As the missile arced towards them, a hand rose out of the crowd and caught the bottle in the air, followed by applause, congratulatory for the catcher and derisory at the thrower.
Since the refugees had been moved earlier there seemed little reason for the anti-fascists to remain except to shout slogans at the opposition and perhaps to deny them a feeling of victory. However, they would have to leave at some point.
A couple of individuals who seemed to be in some kind of leadership role began to discuss with the police their desire for everyone to leave together. At last, to the relief of many, the crowd began to move in the direction of Pearse Street. But not for long, as they were stopped by some POU.
The antifascists were now strung out along the pavement and much more vulnerable than they had been in their previous position in the small lane entrance. Police vans moved up, ostensibly for protection but the actual result was the kettling of the antifascists for a while.
Dissatisfaction was expressed among the crowd – a lot!
Eventually they began to move again, and a local elderly man wished the antifascists well and “safe home”. One of the antifascists was heard to reply: “Thank you; go raibh maith agat!”
The route was through a narrow passage under a railway bridge and on to Pearse Street, heading for Tara Street but strung out and not at all in good defensive form, with members of the mob regularly screaming hatred at them from a metre or two away.
The temptation to knock out one individual nearby who was spitting at antifascists was strong but apart from the danger of arrest, that might have sparked a general assault with the whole group exposed and badly strung out along the pavement.
It is clear that the fascist and far-right threat which was so much in evidence during the Covid Lockdown and which received a couple of important setbacks since has not disappeared and the National Party has planned a rally for Custom House Quay today.
Responses to fascist threats will need to be more widespread and probably better organised in future.
Subsequently the revolutionary Housing League issued a brief statement that they had opened up an empty building in Dublin to accommodate the displaced (again!) refugees. It was learned today that some antifascists were assaulted as their group dispersed.
Misguided people from disadvantaged working class communities the followers of the mob may be but there is no excuse for harassing and threatening vulnerable people who are living rough on the street.