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

IRELAND’S POLICE CHIEF TRIES TO BLAME THE IRISH LEFT FOR FAR-RIGHT DISTURBANCES

Diarmuid Breatnach

(Reading time main text: 15 mins)

The fascist far-Right in Ireland organised a protest in Dublin on Saturday 27th February against the Government-ordered restrictions on travel and entertainment, pubs etc. In a departure from the usual submissive conduct of these “rebels” with the Gardaí, some of the participants were aggressive towards the police to the extent of throwing fireworks at them. Following the event, Drew Harris, the Commissioner of the Irish State’s police force, the Garda Síochána, outrageously claimed that the far-Right and the far-Left and Republicans had jointly organised the event but soon had to withdraw the claim. Irish Republicans were also blamed by the State’s television broadcaster on-line report which was also subsequently edited to remove the allegation but the Minister for Justice repeated them. Opinion is divided about the significance of these claims.

27 February 2021: Gardaí clash with participants in anti-Lockdown protest organised by the Far-Right in Dublin’s Grafton Street after fireworks were thrown at the police (Photo sourced: Internet)

The event was attended by a number varying, according to reports, from 300 to 1,000 and undoubtedly attracted participation from some people who would not normally be regarded as of the far-Right. However it was organised from the Far-Right with the fascist National Party taking a prominent role and not only would the socialist Left and Republicans not have any kind of association with the fascists and other far-Rightists but they had actively opposed the latter and sections of the former had clashed with them on a number of occasions.

Drew Harris, Garda Commissioner (most senior post in the police force of the Irish state) — he was forced to withdraw his claim that the “far Left” had organised the anti-Lockdown march jointly with the far-Right, the actual organisers (Photo sourced: Internet)

After the uproar over his claim, including by some TDs in the Dáil), Drew Harris withdrew the allegation but pretended that there had been “initial indications” to give rise to his accusation. Subsequently, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee tried to obscure the issue, claiming that some people who had previously been Republicans had subsequently become far-Rightists. Regardless of the alleged isolated case of an individual here and there, their claims had neither Irish nor world history to suggest what Harris had said. From the moment fascism appeared in history, communists and socialists have fought it, right around the world. As Hitler, Mussolini and later Franco clawed their way to power in Germany, Italy and Spain, communists and socialists and anarchists – i.e the so-called “far left” — fought them fiercely and when they lost there, paid with their lives. The turning points of WW2 came outside Moscow, even inside Stalingrad and in the Battle of Kursk. Overall it cost twenty million Soviet Union lives to turn the war.

In the rest of the world, during the 1930s the “far Left” fought fascism and this was the case in Ireland too, although here, where the Left was small, Irish Republicans led the struggle and drove the Blueshirts off the streets, some of their number also going on to fight the fascists in the Spanish state. It was De Valera’s pseudo-Republican government, installed in particular on Republican votes, that banned the Blueshirts but was soon to ban the IRA too.

So nothing in World or Irish history exists to give rise to Drew Harris’ outrageous and outlandish early claims.

PARTIAL RECENT HISTORY OF SOCIALIST AND REPUBLICAN OPPOSITION TO THE FAR-RIGHT

But further – in more recent history in Ireland, Republicans and Socialists have mobilised against racism, fascism, and populist groups of the far-Right. In 2016 the European Islamophobic organisation Pegida planned to launch itself in a major city in every European state and planned a Dublin GPO rally on 6th February. A massive mobilisation took place against them and Republicans and Socialists1 confronted them physically, so that an Irish fascist required A&E treatment and the East European fascists needed to be taken out of the area in a police van with another acting as a diversion. Three Republicans still face serious charges2 arising from those events.

One of a number of struggles as Gardaí attacked Republicans and Socialists actively opposing the fascists attempting to launch the Pegida islamophobic organisation in Dublin in February 2016. An RTÉ photographer was batoned by one of those Gardaí (who was eventually fined but never disciplined within the force). This scene was photographed in Cathedral Street, just off O’Connell Street, with the fascists hiding out in a nearby pub until rescued and driven from the area in a police van. (Photo credit: The Journal)

More recently, since the fascists and other far-Rightists have begun to organise again, Socialists and Republicans have confronted them time and time again. And the Gardaí and their intelligence service know this from monitoring social media traffic and from policing those events, without needing even their other facilities such as phone tapping and informers. They know also that the Far-Right have been threatening Republican and Socialist activists with violence and accusing them of being paedophiles, drug merchants, child kidnappers, paid agents of a certain Greek Millionaire etc.

Far-Right racist, fundamentalist Catholic and crazy conspiracy theorist Gemma O’Doherty has often been confronted by Socialists and Republicans at her public protests, as have others such as Niall McConnell and his handfull of Síol na hÉireann fascists, or other fascists such as Herman Kelly of the Irish Freedom Party, Justin Barrett of the National Party, along with the likes of QAnon and other small far-Right groups and the larger populist Irish Yellow Vests, led by the Islamophobe Glen Miller.

The Gardaí have attended all the public events of the far-Right in Ireland and whenever they have seen the Left and/or Republicans attend also, it was clear to the police that it was to counter-protest. On some occasions the Gardaí have been content to keep the two sides apart but on others have actively sided with the Right. A few Dublin examples will suffice:

  • A number of those countering a Gemma O’Doherty “free speech” protest in Dublin in November 2019 were threatened with arrest for getting ‘too close’ to the far-Rightists while on the other hand some of the latter were permitted to walk among their opponents and challenge them, all the while under police protection.
  • On 14th December 2019, a broad gathering of anti-fascists and anti-racists occupied the planned protest ground of the far-Right in a counter “Rally for Peace” outside Leinster House, outnumbering the latter by order of at least two to one. Republicans and Socialists were, of course, with the antifascists.
Anti-Racist Rally for Peace outside Leinster House 14 Dec 2019 — the Socialists and Republicans are among the anti-racists on the right of photo, confronting the Far-Right rally opposite who are pretending to be patriots flying the Republican tricolour (also official flag of the State). (Photo: D.Breatnach)
  • In January 2020 a smallish Irish Yellow Vest protest on Custom House quay was confronted by much smaller group of antifascists from the Irish Left. The unfurling of the Antifa flag was sufficient to attract instant hostility and threatening behaviour from the far-Rightists.
  • Early in the year Gardaí permitted some of the far-Right QAnon protesters at the GPO to cross the street to insult counter protesters on the central pedestrian reservation, often at one-foot distances without wearing masks (despite the pandemic); then rescued one of them who had entered among the counter-protesters to punch a Republican, escorting the fascist safely out and refusing to arrest him.
  • A few weeks later, the Gardaí removed a counter-protester who had approached the QAnon and been assaulted by one of the latter, not even cautioning the assailant.
  • Gardaí harassed masked and social-distancing Debenhams pickets under pandemic restrictions in Henry St. while not bothering QAnon around the corner at the GPO who were neither wearing masks nor social distancing.
  • On a number of those Saturdays the Special Branch police also harassed Republicans picketing in solidarity with political prisoners.
  • On 11th July 2019 during a homophobic rally (under the pretence of “protecting children from paedophilia’) of the Far-Right outside Leinster House, the Gardaí permitted thugs to attack a tiny counterprotest, beating them and grabbing their banner before the police chose to intervene, arrested none of the assailants and ushered the counter-protesters away.
  • On 31st July 2020 a Far-Right and fascist islamophobic protest outside Croke Park was opposed by anti-racist anti-fascists, including Socialists and Republicans.
  • On 8th August 2020 antifascists including Socialists and Republicans opposed a Far-Right march (towards RTÉ) and clashed with them on O’Connell Bridge, on D’Olier Street and again later at the GPO.
  • On 18th October 2020 a mixed-gender group of Socialists, Republicans and LGBT campaigners counterprotesting an Irish Yellow Vest rally on Custom House Quay were attacked by a larger male group, mostly masked (although at an anti-mask protest!) and armed with metal bars and wooden clubs. The Gardaí allowed the unequal fighting to continue for a while before intervening, a few police gently ushering the assailants back while the rest, including the riot police, violently pushed the counter-protesters out of the area, threatening them with drawn batons and forcing them to leave one of their number unconscious on the ground. The Gardaí’s statement later was that there had been no serious incidents and that they had arrested four people (which occurred in an unrelated incident at the other end of the Quay).
Antifascists (centre of photo) resist attack by fascists (mostly left of photo) on Dublin’s Custom House Quay; one antifascist is fending off a flagpole wielded by a fascist 22 August 2020. Many of the fascists were armed and also masked to avoid identification at the anti-masking rally called by Irish Yellow Vests. The Gardaí permitted the attack for a while before gently ushering the fascists back a little but driving the antifascists with threats and violent pushes all the way back on to Butt Bridge (Source photo: Internet)
  • Three weeks later, at a National Party rally outside Leinster House in Kildare St, a tiny oppositional group of women were attacked and an LGBT campaigner clubbed to the ground. Streaming blood from a head wound, the Gardaí pushed her out of the area. Later their statement claimed that nothing had happened but due to social media videos in circulation and protests had to change their story but claimed the victim had to make a complaint!3
  • On 1st February and again on 10th October 2020 in Kildare Street, socialist and republican counter-protesters were attacked by Gardaí. They also sealed off a section of Nasseau Street to prevent the National Party from being pursued by their opponents as they left.
Far-Right rally outside Leinster House 1st February 2020 opposed by Republicans and Socialists (that is where most of the Gardaí are).  (Photo: D.Breatnach)
Far-Right rally (left of photo) outside Leinster House 1st February 2020 opposed by Republicans and Socialists (right of photo, where most of the Gardaí are). (Photo: D.Breatnach)
The Gardaí are in no doubt about the allegiances of the Republicans and Socialists: after driving them (foreground) back with batons from the National Party (seen in the distance, with very few police there) on 10th October 2020, the riot police kept pushing them into Molesworth St. until they had established a safe distance, then escorted the NP supporters out of Kildare St.
  • On 22nd October 2020 for the first time (that time in Grafton Street also), the police attacked some of the Far-Right at a protest organised by the Yellow Vests. However that was because not only were they violating all the restrictions but they were jamming Grafton Street and refusing to move and some even getting aggressive with the Gardaí, which led to a few baton blows and 11 arrests (no ‘far-Left’ there that time either). Drew Harris claimed afterwards that they were investigating the organisers and perhaps they did finally warn them off as the Yellow Vests organised nothing officially since – but as we can see, their place has been taken by other far-Right groups.
Republicans and Socialists after clashing with supporters of the fascist National Party outside Leinster House, then chasing them on to Nasseau Street, where the Gardaí not only provided the fascists with an escort but also blocked off the eastern end of the street, 10th October 2020. (Photo source: possibly D.Breatnach or AFA?)

WHAT GAVE RISE TO HARRIS’ EARLY STATEMENT?

Some have explained Harris’ early statement as coming from the liberal complaint that “extreme Right and extreme Left are essentially the same”. Certainly this travesty of analysis exists and it is a fact that we have seen some of that view expressed by some media pundits. Such liberal claims serve as excuses for the liberals not to take action in defence of the vaunted democratic rights when the fascists organise. Then the liberals criticise those who go out to fight the fascists and to try to prevent them taking power. Sometimes the State uses these liberals to justify the banning of “far left” organisations, sometimes at the same time as those of the far right. Of course, the capitalist system remains to do the work of pushing austerity on to the working people and in such situations the State knows who the real enemies of the capitalist system are and hardly needs the fascists any more.

Drew Harris in his former role as Deputy Chief of the PSNI (formerly the RUC), the British colonial police force in Ireland (Photo sourced: Internet)

However, Drew Harris is no liberal. In 2014 he was deputy head of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the successor of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, an armed colonial police force with a long history of suppression of anti-colonial resistance and democratic rights and, in fact, riven with anti-Catholic and anti-republican sectarianism. It is a force with a long history of brutality, torture and murder.

One of the many scenes of the RUC colonial police, forerunner of the PSNI, attacking unarmed civil rights marchers, this one in Duke Street, Derry, 1968. (Photo sourced: Internet)

Many people outside the Six Counties mistakenly view the British Army as the main repressive force of British colonialism there; however that role belongs to the armed colonial police. From the partition of Ireland in 1921, it was they who raided the nationalist areas, arrested people, beat them up, sometimes murdered them, enforced the sectarian and fascist Flags and Emblems Act, used their Special Powers Act, attacked the Civil Rights marches from 1968 onwards, oversaw Loyalist attacks on marchers, machine-gunned the Derry Bogside and were the cause of the barricades barring them from entry and the subsequent Battle of the Bogside, where colonial police fought side by side with Loyalist sectarian thugs (when they were not actually the one and the same). Only then did the British ruling class send in the Army but even then the repressive role of the colonial police did not end – they just shared it with the imperialist army.

Drew Harris served in that colonial police force for 21 years and led it for four. His father was in the RUC for 33 years and had reached the rank of Superintendent before he was killed by the IRA during the 30 Years War.

PSNI attacking sit-down peaceful protest objecting to Loyalist marches through the Garvaghy Road, Beflast in 2007. (Photo sourced: Internet)
PSNI raid on Republican centre in August 2020.
PSNI raid on Republican centre in August 2020 (Photo credit: Saoradh)

During that long war, intelligence played a major role on both sides and the MI5 and MI6 departments of British Intelligence were both active with RUC Special Branch there, with MI5 eventually gaining overall control. People who find it easy to disbelieve Gerry Adams’ claims that he was never in the IRA somehow find it reasonable to deny that Drew Harris is an MI5 asset. Actually, both claims are at least as likely to be true. And now he is head of the police force of the Irish neo-colonial State – nor would it be the first time British Intelligence has penetrated the upper echelons of the State’s police force. Ned Garvey, who was Garda Commissioner and formed the “Heavy Gang”, was exposed as a British agent; when they got back into government in 1975 Fianna Fáil sacked him but without exposing him publicly, which would have exposed also the Irish ruling class4.

Harris is long accustomed to handling and using intelligence collected by his agents in both police forces in Ireland from surveillance, touts, tapping phones, pressurising and blackmailing people, raids and searches etc. He would know very well that Socialists and Republicans have been to the forefront in opposition to the far-Right in Ireland. And that even those Socialists and Republicans who have not fought the Right actively have at least condemned them in print and spoken word.

Given all the history of socialists and republicans in Ireland, given the world history of fascists and their opposition by socialists, given also Drew Harris’ long policing background and the Gardaí’s knowledge of events over the years in Ireland in addition to their ongoing intelligence-gathering, what can be behind his extraordinary original statement and McEntees’s attempted justification? Preparation for the repression of the Socialists and Republicans, perhaps to assist in the imposition of austerity measures upon the working class? A planting of the seed in the public’s psyche to allow for restrictions on “both sides” — while in reality concentrating on the socialists and republicans?

One thing is for sure: Neither ignorance nor liberal confusion is behind this “mistake”.

End.

FOOTNOTES

1From now on I will be using this word to describe any or all of the various groups covered by the term: communists, trotskyists, anarchists, left social-democrats but not Irish Republicans, though some of them may be as committed to socialism as any of the others or even more so than some.

2“Violent disorder”, carrying a maximum jail penalty of 10 years, unlimited fine – or both! These are the first political demonstrators to be charged under that Act.

3She did and an individual has been charged.

4 And this in turn facilitated Garvey in suing for wrongful dismissal and to win damages

SOURCES & REFERENCES

Drew Harris original statement: https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40235270.html?fbclid=IwAR14cmU5XLR6Y2oVLoFO08ldtQbfB8Tp_acTRtFaB0MgLt9_37dyMu5DRVE

16th November 2019, Left counterprotest Far-Right rally at Leinster House: https://www.onebigunion.ie/post/antifascists-moblise-against-hate-gathering-dublin?fbclid=IwAR1glf3uZvW5zblDyp-ktHzhlpakHV1OT6pjTYQtRdOHDGus35y8_iVXaKk

14 December 2019, outside Leinster House: https://www.thejournal.ie/rally-peace-4933697-Dec2019/

January 2019, Custom House Quay: https://www.thejournal.ie/yellow-vest-ireland-4440420-Jan2019/

11th July 2019, Far-Right homophobic rally and attack on tiny counter-protesting group (misreported by Belfast Telegraph): https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/republic-of-ireland/gardai-break-up-scuffles-between-protesters-in-dublin-39359650.html

February 1st 2020, outside Leinster House, “free speech” rally by Far-Rightists (against proposed ‘hate speech’ ban), opposed by Socialists and Republicans: https://headtopics.com/ie/rival-protesters-clash-at-d-il-rally-against-hate-speech-law-11036076

July 7th 2020, Croke Park, Far-Right and Fascist Islamophobic protest at opposed by Socialist and Republicans: https://the-beacon.ie/2020/07/31/tensions-at-croke-park-as-far-right-gathered-to-protest-against-eid-celebration/

August 8th 2020 clash with Far-Right marchers and picketers: https://www.bitchute.com/video/SKgyFkDsGLAB/

August 22nd 2020, Custom House Quay Irish Yellow Vest rally, armed fascist attack, hugely misreported by RTÉ: https://www.rte.ie/news/2020/0822/1160698-anti-lockdown-protest/

Much more accurate report: https://rebelbreeze.com/2020/08/31/there-will-be-another-day/

September 2020, Clubbing of LGTB campaigner and Garda collusion: https://the-beacon.ie/2020/09/14/editorial-the-far-right-descends-deeper-into-violence-as-the-gardai-and-media-look-on/

10th October 2020 clash outside Leinster House: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/hundreds-clash-in-violent-exchanges-at-dublin-protest-1.4377808

October 22nd 2020, Grafton Street: https://www.thejournal.ie/drew-harris-protests-5242880-Oct2020/

Garda tolerance of Far-Right protests (while also saying not favouring them!) while telling Debenham picketers to disperse: https://www.irishexaminer.com/opinion/columnists/arid-31003703.html

Lina Jiménez Numpaque: Victim in the Andino Case Frame-up

Interview of framed ex-prisoner awaiting trial by Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

(Reading time: 8 mins.)

(28/02/2021)

In June 2017 a bomb exploded in the Centro Andino shopping centre in the north of Bogotá, Colombia, cutting down three people. A few days later the police arrested ten youths for their supposed participation in the attack, amongst them Lina Jiménez, an arts student, whose photo went viral. These youths all had something in common and it wasn’t their participation in the attack but rather that they were all friends.

We all met in the university, as we studied together. Some of us studied Law, Politics and others Sociology. I met some of them in optional classes were we coincided. We had a common position on the defence of human rights and the student movement, we met in one or other coffee shops, assemblies that took place in various parts of the university.

Friends to the point that six of them were arrested together a few days after the attack whilst on holidays in the El Espinal area. The precise moment she was arrested was the first time that Lina became aware that the Prosecutor had issued an arrest warrant for her.

I was on holiday in El Espinal and we were going to meet up in a spa resort. In El Espinal there are some festivals for Saint John’s and Saint Peter’s day and that is why we were there and I was in a taxi when various cars surrounded us and stopped us. Then they took me out of the car and officers from the Special Operations Group (GOES) and the Judicial Investigative Police (SIJIN) read out the arrest warrant. They never showed it to me or read me my rights.

It wasn’t just any order. The weaker the State’s case the more need it has to make it appear solid and to show the dangerousness of the detainees.

We were taken to the main police station in El Espinal. There were loads of them, all those that took part in the operation. Later on, one of the police officers who was guarding us said that they had around 1,200 officers involved in our capture in El Espinal. It was basically full of police officers.

Lina Jimenez during interview (Photo credit: Gearóid Ó Loingsigh)

We don’t know whether the figure of 1,200 officers is correct or not, but there is no doubt it was an enormous operation. I asked her jokingly whether such a disproportionate and unnecessary deployment made her feel important. She laughed and said no

That didn’t make me feel important, what made me feel important was the flight, as they brought us in a plane from El Espinal to Bogotá. They took us to the police station, searched us, took our prints and whatnot. They never said it was for terrorism. I was told it was for conspiracy, we were only told it was for terrorism when we got to Bogotá- They took us out of the station well guarded with motorbikes, cars, loads of officers and they took us from Flandes airport to Catam [Military Airport].

As Lina herself acknowledges such an operation was a bad omen for any detainee, even when innocent. When they took her to the airport she knew nothing good could come of it, that the State was going all out against her and would do everything possible to show results in the case and they charged her with terrorism, conspiracy, homicide and attempted homicide with a possible sentence of 60 years.

When we were being taken to the airport in Flandes, I said to myself, this thing is not so that they invalidate our arrest. If they are setting up such an operation to get some people on holidays, they are definitely not going to let us go. Regardless of whether we did it or not, these people are going to convict us. To see how they organised the truth, leaves you feeling powerless.

In fact, later she found out when she could read the press that they had already convicted her, that both state functionaries and the press had declared that the guilty ones had been captured. They published identikit pictures of some of those arrested that matched them so neatly they seemed to be photos, but they did not match the statements from the witnesses. The identikit photos had been prepared days before the attack.

Little did Lina know when she was arrested the legally doubtful manoeuvres the State would resort to, re-arresting her three times in contravention of court orders to free her. The State sought out judges in their pocket to legalise what was illegal and to justify her re-arrest and even open up another slightly different case against her. Amongst the manoeuvres of state was the harassment of the relatives and attempts made to force them to give information or testify against other detainees.

The strategy did not work when it came to the relatives, but one of the detainees, Natalia Trujillo, could not withstand captivity and the pressure on her and handed herself over to the State, reaching an agreement with the Prosecutor which consisted in her not serving any time in exchange for her false testimony against her friends and fellow students. It was a potentially serious blow in the legal case, but it was also a hard knock in personal terms. You could understand bitterness in a case like this, but when Lina speaks of her former cell mate, there is no trace in her voice, but rather of pain and also an understanding of how a person could break like that.

You feel enormous hurt, you just don’t expect that to happen, especially as we went through this process together, together we experienced what was happening, together we felt the same pressure from the State and what happened to her is sort of like that. We all have different ways of dealing psychologically with this type of severe pressure. It is no secret that the State seeks to weave its own truth and as part of doing so it resorts to these type of situations, to push people to their physical and psychological limits that they end up saying things that are not true. It was really hurtful.

Natalia suffered the legal process for more than two years, but in August 2019 she turned up testifying against Lina and other people linked to the case.

As I said, we don’t all have the same capacity and I can’t say that I didn’t feel pain nor exhaustion during all of this process, because it was really severe and there are days you just don’t want to move an inch. I believe in the power of love and I really believe that solidarity also picks you up and saves you from many things. When you are down the other person picks you up and you pick them up, there are series of bonds which are built and that pushes you forward, but we don’t all have the same capacity to say ‘right I can take a little more of this’.

Perhaps, Lina was stronger and she showed that in a photo that went viral. She is seen with her hands tied behind her back leaning in towards a journalist, seething and shouting. I asked her about that photo, as in person she is nothing like that, but an arrest is not a normal situation for anyone.

We were in the station in Puente Aranda and it has to be said that it is a horrible place. It was a complicated situation, we had nowhere to sleep. I hadn’t a clue about the hearing to legalise our arrest, that was explained to me the next day and we were heavily guarded. We left Puente Aranda in an armoured car with police vehicles surrounding it. We got there and the armoured car took a while in getting us out. When I got there I saw relatives and some friends crying, I could see their deep pain in the midst of all the rage and impotence and they were very quiet. I felt the need to say it wasn’t true, that this was about something else.

Of course, they had told me ‘You’re to keep your mouth shut’ and in that moment I felt I couldn’t let this go… You feel a rage for your own life, but also seeing your family subjected to such complex situations, that the police push them around. We were walking and there was a lot of press there and we were guarded by the police and they didn’t want us to talk. So as soon as I got down out of the armoured car I started shouting that this was a judicial false positive that this had got to do with electoral interests at the time, that is was part of the Uribista strategy. I started shouting that and that photo was taken when I was going up the stairs and a journalist from City TV came up to me and I was really upset as whilst I was shouting a policeman tried to push back the journalists and he shouted at me ‘shut up, shut up, don’t say anything!’ Obviously that was like winding me up more. Looking back on it, it would have been very different had we remained silent.

And that is certainly the case. In the entire process none of those arrested bowed their heads, they have even appeared in videos from the jail, some have written articles and others were even spokespersons for prisoners in prison protests. Unjustly detained, but not defeated.

All prisons try to crush the individual, to break them, to take away their dignity, their sense of being alive. Colombia’s prisons are no different in this matter and in fact various problems such as overcrowding and poor health and educational services make the situation worse still. Being a political prisoner can be dangerous, but when the numbers allow for it, being part of a prisoners’ collective has its advantages. Lina was taken to the Good Shepherd Prison (Buen Pastor) in Bogotá and following her processing she was placed in the political prisoners’ wing.

It is very interesting, because when we got there, the last political prisoners of the FARC were beginning to leave, we were eight days in the police station and they put the fear of God into us, that ‘you are just posh kids and in the Good Shepherd prison they are going to rob you and attack you.’

But when we go to Wing Six, the political prisoners really surprised us, they had cleaned our cells, clean sheets, everything was organised, they had hot soup, coffee, toilet paper and other things. There were around 34 prisoners from the FARC and the ELN. After a while the FARC prisoners were released and social prisoners began to arrive and it was very different. As it was a high security wing, people connected to the drugs trade began to be put in it. There was a complete change in the atmosphere as their money could be seen, they paid for whiskey to be brought in, which when the political prisoners where there, that didn’t happen. When the social prisoners came, it was different, a huge change.

Although states usually try to treat political prisoners as common criminals, they are not and it can be seen in how they organise in prison and how they relate to the prison authorities. And to form part of a collective had, as Lina saw when she arrived, certain advantages for own safety and well being.

The prisoners had outside support and they reported things, the guards called Wing Six the wing for the complaints as we were always reporting to the Procurator, the Public Defender’s Office etc. The Director consulted the prisoners about how to do certain things. Meetings were held with the Director. This didn’t happen on other wings; they didn’t take the prisoners’ views into account. The political prisoners won a space, these were not concessions from the prison authorities, but rather they were won through protests and even hunger strikes over the years.

7 killed in Colombia protests against police brutality - Weekly Voice
Colombian riot police attack a demonstrator (Photo sourced: Internet)

But it is not just people like Lina who suffer the effects of judicial frame-ups, but also their families, especially when they are accused of a crime such as the attack on the Centro Andino. The State harasses the relatives and tries to put pressure on them as part of its legal strategy.

There is an enormous pressure put on our families as well as the social stigma. In my case, when I was captured, they were raiding my home at the same time and it was severe as I live on a main avenue and they closed the entire avenue off, there were armoured cars, and at least ten anti-explosives vehicles and a huge number of police officers and everyone was asking, what happened? And since my release, they haven’t stopped following me and taking photos and there is a permanent presence of plainclothes cops.

To her, the case and other processes against other students are state strategies to defeat the social movement and hand down exemplary sentences as a warning to all those who think differently and want to change the country. The legal cases try to break grassroots processes and the detainees themselves. In her case, it didn’t work that well.

To see the misery of this system in the flesh makes you understand and treat this space as another space for political struggle. In the legal process itself and the prison, you see the system so cruelly unmasked because this can only be done by people who have no respect for life, for humanity, for nothing. You feel you have to continue struggling for what you believe in, for life. This system has been in crisis for a long time and I left the prison and we are in a pandemic, we face a very complicated situation which is not far removed from the logic of the system. In this system there are humans who are in the top category and then there are those who are not in any category. And my position and that of my friends in the case, is the type of position that has to be hidden out of view and that is the role of the prison.

You see the State’s aim take shape, to continue suppressing and depleting the movement because, amongst other things that is one of the tools in creating the idea that there has to be an exemplary punishment that has to be handed down and it seeks out the tools to rob people of their humanity.

Although Lina and the others unjustly arrested for the Andino Case are at liberty, the legal case against them continues. It is to be hoped that the judges make a finding in law, as has already happened in the case of Mateo Gutiérrez who was also accused of belonging to the same organisation that supposedly carried out the attack and he managed to demonstrate and prove his innocence. But in Colombia justice limps along and sometimes never gets there.

end.

Photo credit: Gearóid Ó Loingsigh

INIGO CABACAS KILLED BY POLICE – RELATIVES AND FRIENDS WAITING THREE YEARS WITHOUT JUSTICE

INIGO CABACAS KILLED BY RUBBER BULLET FIRED BY BASQUE POLICE IN 2012 — STILL NO JUSTICE FOR FAMILY OR FRIENDS

Diarmuid Breatnach

Most Basques and especially supporters of their most popular football team, Athletic Bilbao1, were very happy in the early evening of 5th April 2012 . 

Inigo Cabacas Gaztelugatxe
Inigo Cabacas, photographed with the Basque hermitage Gaztalugatxe, on the Biscay coast, in the background.

Their team had beaten a football giant in the UEFA cup twice and another premier European team once. The fans were expecting Athletic to win or at least draw again that evening, in which case Athletic Bilbao were through to the second leg of the quarter-finals. They had no idea that the evening would end with a police riot squad firing rubber bullets into a festive crowd, causing the death of a young fan.

The high expectations of that evening in Bilbao were the result of a run of wins for the Athletic team. On March 8th 2012, Athletic Bilbao beat Manchester United 3-2 on their own ground, at Old Trafford.

One needs to know a few population statistics to understand what an achievement that was. Manchester United is a football team on the world stage, based in a city with a population of 2.55 million – that is not far from the population figure for the entire Basque Country. In addition, Manchester United’s players are drawn from around the world; Athletic recruits only Basque players from a total population of the Basque Country of less than 3 million.

A week after their win in the northern England city, on March 13th, Athletic faced Manchester United again, this time on the Basque team’s home ground, San Mames, in Bilbao. Manchester Utd. were beaten 2-1 and it seemed that the Basque lions2 were unstoppable.

These wins created a huge interest in the next game, which was with FC Schalke 04 on March 29th at the German team’s home ground. Schalke plays in the top tier of the German football league and have won many championships including one UEFA League. With around 130,000 members, Schalke 04 is the third-largest sports club in the world in terms of membership, behind their compatriot rival FC Bayern Munich and Portuguese club SL Benfica.

Athletic Bilbao is not a sports conglomerate – it is a football club which is owned by its 40,000 members (remember, this is a small country – that’s nearly 1.5% of the whole population! It’s also around 11% of the population of their home base, Bilbao). The management board is elected by the membership.

At Schalke 04’s home ground on March 29th, the Bilbaino team beat them 2-4. The interest was therefore at fever-pitch for Athletic’s return match with the German team at Athletic’s home ground, San Mames on 5th April. The result was a 2-2 draw but Athletic were ahead 6-4 on aggregate and the fans were delighted. Bilbao was, as they say, buzzing.

After matches, young fans especially go to different pubs around town. Inigo Cabacas and many others went to an Herriko Taberna (a “Peoples’ Tavern”, i.e. one managed by the Abertzale [Basque pro-Independence] Left) which is located in an small “square” with planters, connected by alley with Licenciado Poza street. This small “square” is off the María Díaz de Haro street near the stadium; it runs parallell with the San Mames street itself, an area of bars well-known as a destination for fans after a game at the stadium.

The Herriko is too small to accommodate all those who gathered there but that was no problem for the area outside took the overspill. Early in the evening a few people were seen scuffling there and the rest of the crowd around them told them to knock it off, this was a time for celebration, etc. The scuffle ended and the festivities continued.

Some time later, a van load of police arrived. These were the Ertzaintza, a Basque Police force of 7,500 created in 1982 which has had numerous clashes with Basque strike pickets and with the Abertzale (pro-Independence) Left. Supporters of the Abertzale Left and many others refer to the Ertzaintza as “zipayos” (i.e. “sepoys”, local soldiers recruited by colonial occupiers). The Ertzaintza are responsible to the Basque Autonomous Region Government (CAV), a semi-autonomous entity covering three of the four southern Basque provinces.

Basque Police, the Ertzainta, face youth Solidarity Wall with a Basque comrade the police have come to arrest in Donosti/San Sebastian some years ago.
Basque Police, the Ertzaintza, face a youth Solidarity Wall built to defend Basque comrades the police have come to arrest in Donosti/San Sebastian some years ago.

Some of the youth perceive the arrival of the masked and helmeted police as a provocation and begin to throw bottles at the van.

The police officer in charge of those in the van asks for reinforcements and these are sent. The police emerge from their vans and begin to fire rubber bullets3 at the crowd at quite close range (the “square” is less than 45 metres at its furthest from the street) and everyone scatters except for a small group who are throwing bottles at the police but even they eventually dive for cover. People are sheltering in doorways, huddled up against the walls on each side of the “square”. Some are inside the pub wondering what is going on. A local shop-manager has raised the shutter over his doorway and people crowd in there. Some people are sheltering behind the wooden planters that are in a line down the centre of the narrow square.

After some time three young men walk towards the police with their hands in the air, asking them to stop firing rubber bullets; the police strike them with batons. Meanwhile it comes to the attention of some in the crowd nearby that a person is lying on the ground, apparently unconscious with blood coming from his ear and the rear of his head. People go to his aid and one of his friends recognises Inigo Cabacas. He gets his mobile phone and rushes towards the police telling them that someone has been seriously injured and to call an ambulance. A police officer tells him to drop the mobile. Inigo’s friend repeats his urgent request and the police officer tells him again to drop the mobile and hits him with a truncheon. The man drops his mobile and retreats from the police.  

The police advance into the area and reach the injured man who has some people around him; a women is rendering first aid.  A policeman tells her to move away.  She tells him the man needs and ambulance and that she is applying pressure to stop the bleeding.  He says he wants to see for himself and pulls at her arm but after awhile desists and goes away.

Eventually an ambulance arrives and takes Inigo Cabacas, still unconscious, to hospital, where he lies in a coma.

(video of the scene of the incident and interviews with friends and witnesses with English subtitles)

The news runs through a city, a shock in the midst of its celebrations and soon afterwards throughout the Basque Country. The first official reaction is given by the Interior Minister of the Basque Autonomous Regional Government, who declares to the press that the Ertzaintza acted properly and in line with their procedures, although he regrets the unfortunate death of they young man. He also repeats the first line of defence given by the Ertzaintza, that they were called to help someone injured in a fight and that the crowd was preventing the ambulance in attendance from rendering assistance to the injured.

When eye-witnesses give their version and the reporters of some newpapers begin to gather information, it becomes clear that the Minister could not possibly have investigated the incident in the time available. Furthermore, it emerges that no ambulance attended until after the incident with the police and that it appears that no call for one had been made earlier. Furthermore, according to the woman who attended to Inigo at the scene, the ambulance paramedic told her, when she complained at their delay in arriving, that the police had delayed their entrance. Under a storm of criticism from civil society and from the Abertzale Left party, EH Bildu, the Minister promises a full investigation.

Inigo Cabacas dies after three days without having recovered consciousness.

Some time later, a recording of the police communications on the night is made available by GARA, a pro-Independence Basque daily newspaper. The following becomes clear from the recording:

  • The Controller at Ertzaintza HQ calls a police van leader and directs him to attend the Herriko, saying that a fight has occurred there and that someone is injured.

  • The van leader reports that they have arrived and that some are throwing bottles at them, that they require reinforcements.  No mention of ambulance.

  • The Controller confirms reinforcements are being sent.

  • Reinforcements arrive. One of the van leaders now reports that nothing is happening, everything is ok.

  • The Controller replies that he wants the police to go in and take possession of the area and make any arrests necessary. He emphasises that he wants to be understood clearly, that they are to “go into the Herriko with everything we have”, to take control of the area “and then everything will be ok.”

  • The van leader replies that the order is understood and soon shots are heard (the firing of rubber bullets).

The family employs a solicitor. A judge is appointed to carry out the investigation but is required to do so along with her other duties. Immediately, the police investigation ceases (according to the family’s lawyer, ithe file contains just three pages), using the excuse of the judicial investigation.

A number of legal applications are made, e.g. for all the police at the incident to be obliged to make a statement, for all police who fired a rubber bullet gun to be identified, for the Controller to be obliged to make a statement, but all are refused by a judge, giving a number of reasons4. Little is established over the following three years, except that three police voluntarily admit to having fired rubber bullets and the identity of the Controller on the evening becomes widely known. There is widespread outrage when the senior officer on duty the day of Inigo’s death is appointed Chief of the Ertzaintza. At a recent press conference, the Cabacas family’s lawyer, Jone Goirizelaia, announced that they had possibly identified the officer who had fired the fatal shot.

It emerged during the campaign by supporters of the Cabacas family that no recognised procedure was followed by the police with regard to the incident: debriefing statements were not taken from each of the police participants, guns were not examined to identify which had been fired, no inventory was taken of the number of rubber bullets fired. No attempt was made to contact witnesses after the event to gain a picture of what had occurred. Indeed, some witnesses who approached the police station to give statements were told to go away (see video link posted earlier in this article). It further appears that the Ertzaintza have been issued with no specific operational instructions with regard to the firing of rubber bullets.

According to some sources, the rubber bullets should only be fired at knee-height and at no less than 50 metres from the target. The “square” is, according to locals, less than 45 metres at its furthest from the street and therefore the police from the moment they began firing, were in serious breach of the minimum distance requirements. In addition, the Ertzaintza have frequently been seen aiming their rubber bullet guns at protesters’ faces from as little as a metre or two and also firing from the shoulder with the muzzle parallel to the ground, i.e. directed at head or chest-height of the target. Also, the rubber-coated steel balls bounce uncontrollably.

Rubber bullets against Palestinians

Rubber bullets are regularly fired by the Israeli army at Palestinians. A Palestinian source reports: “Israeli professor Michael Krausz and colleagues at the Rambam Medical Centre in Haifa analysed the medical records of 595 casualties admitted to hospital during the October 2000 protests by Palestinians living inside Israel (typically described as “Israeli Arabs” by the media). Of those, 152 were found to have been injured by rubber-coated metal bullets. Injuries were distributed randomly across their bodies but were most common on the patients’ arms and legs, and on their head, neck and face.

“The doctors said their findings dismissed the theory that “rubber bullets” were safe. Rubber-coated metal bullets with some of their rubber coating removed, revealing their hard steel core. Fired at speeds of what must be several hundred feet a second, these are munitions that cause enough damage that their manufacturers feel compelled to describe them as only ‘less lethal’.

“Writing in the Lancet, they said firing the bullets at civilians made it ‘impossible to avoid severe injuries to vulnerable body regions such as the head, neck and upper torso, leading to substantial mortality, morbidity and disability.’ They added: ‘We reported a substantial number of severe injuries and fatalities inflicted by use of rubber bullets ….. This type of ammunition should therefore not be considered a safe method of crowd control. “The study, ‘Blunt and penetrating injuries caused by rubber bullets during the Israeli-Arab conflict in October, 2000: a retrospective study’ (The Lancet, Volume 359, Issue 9320, Page 1795), also highlighted previous research which suggested that even plastic bullets may not be safe and may cause more severe head injuries.” (Sourced at http://electronicintifada.net/content/misleading-terminology-rubber-bullets/4000)

Rubber bullets against the Irish

Seventeen people were killed in the Six Counties (“Northern Ireland”) by rubber and plastic bullets fired by British soldiers (11) and colonial police (6) during the 30 Years War. A number of people were also blinded. http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/issues/violence/rubberplasticbullet.htm

It emerged in 2013 during a compensation case taken by a Derry man blinded in 1972 that the authorities knew that the missiles were potentially lethal even before they issued them. (http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2013/jun/11/mod-rubber-bullets-lethal-records) It is clear also from a wealth of evidence that the missiles were regularly fired by soldiers and police not only at close range but also aimed at chest or head. In addition, a deadly ‘game’ was played by some British soldiers. Knowing that rubber and plastic bullets were collected by children as mementoes and objects to sell to tourists, soldiers would fire some into an open area and wait for children to run forward to collect them, then see if they could hit the children with subsequent rounds.

Rubber bullets in the Spanish state

The Spanish state continues to allow its police forces to carry and to fire rubber-coated metal bullets, in particular at protesting Basques and Catalans (see video link at bottom below article). Recently, the EU expressed concern at Spanish police firing at migrants attempting to swim into the Spanish state from Morocco, an occasion when 11 of the migrants drowned. But no international protest criticises them for firing potentially lethal missiles at their own citizens. Police in the Spanish state enjoy impunity and none more so than in the Basque and Catalan countries as well as with regard to African migrants. This week, a motion was put to the Basque Parliament to ban the use of rubber bullets in the area under its control (CAV). Instead a proposal was accepted to “restrict” the use of the missiles to “situations of grave danger” to the police, and to “definitely seek a replacement” for them. The Spanish right-wing PP, the liberal Spanish unionist UPyD, along with the PNV (Basque Nationalists), currently in power, voted for it, along with the Basque version of the Spanish social-democrats, the PSE. The only party to vote against the amendment was EH Bildu, party of the Abertzale (pro-Independence) Left; they had proposed the original motion, seeking a total ban and the removal of the missiles.

Parent and friends of Inigo Cabacas confront spokesperson of the Basque Nationalist Party after attempt to ban rubber bullets fails
Parent and friends of Inigo Cabacas confront spokesperson of the Basque Nationalist Party after attempt to ban rubber bullets fails

Among those in the public gallery at the discussion were the parents of Inigo Cabacas. Afterwards, in the corridor outside, they confronted the spokesperson of the PNV, Joseba Egibar. During the exchange, another PNV parliamentarian, Luke Uribe-Etxebarria, tried to prevent its filming by the Basque TV station ETB. That attempt will be the subject of a complaint to the President of the Parliament by EH Bildu; they view it as particularly serious since Uribe-Etxebarria is also on the management board of the TV station and the filming was taking place in areas open to the public.

“I’m never coming to this Parliament again …. I feel cheated,” said Manuel Cabacas, father of the deceased, speaking about the majority decision. “My son is dead …. I only wanted to ensure that it would never happen to anyone else ….”

On the third anniversary of the killing of Inigo “Pitu” Cabacas, among many commemorative vents in the Basque Country, 10 minutes’ silence was observed in the San Mames stadium. Alongside Inigo Cabacas; many are also remembering Aitor Zabaleta, fan of the Real Sociedad team, murdered in Madrid in 1998 by fascist ultras of Club Atletico Madrid.  Many Basques around the world will be conscious of the three years that have passed since Inigo’s killing without anyone being even charged in connection with his death or any noticeable change, whether in Basque police behaviour, procedure or their use of rubber-coated steel projectiles.  A change of political control of the Basque Regional Government from the social-democratice party of Patxi Lopez to the Basque Nationalist Party . (PNV) of Urkullu has had no effect.

It is true that for ordinary people, in capitalist society, the wheels of justice move very slowly; in this case it is hard to see that they are moving at all.

End.

NB: DUBLIN: A group of Basques plan to hold a commemorative event on Tuesday 28th April, on the day of a Basque derby, Bilbao Athletic v. Real Sociedad. They plan to hold a protest picket at the O’Connell Monument in Dublin’s O’Connell Street at 7pm for a short while and afterwards to go to watch the Basque derby (kick-off at 9pm) at the Living Room bar, Cathal Brugha St. Some Dublin-based Irish people have undertaken to support the Basques by participation in both events.  Poster for event: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10153291310864390&set=gm.1624681737767253&type=1&theater

Short but shocking Guardian video of Catalan police using rubber bullets and the testimonies of victims who have lost an eye to the missiles:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/30/catalonia-police-banned-rubber-bullets

Footnotes

1 Based in Bilbao, it is the most popular and most successful (two things that often go together) but not the only football team; there are also Real Sociedad, based in Donosti/San Sebastian and Osasuna, based in Iruña/ Pamplona.

2  A roaring lion is the emblem of the team, arising from the legend of St. Mames, to whom the local church is dedicated and which gives its name to the area, street and stadium. English-language football commentators persisted in calling the team “the Spanish lions” or “the Spanish cavaliers” (??!), in total ignorance, one hopes, of quite how insulting that would be perceived by the players and their fans. The Basque Country is not even politico-geographically Spain, it is divided between the Spanish and French states. And Bilbao Athletic is most certainly not, nor has it ever been, a Spanish team. When the Spanish King attends finals or semi-finals between Barcelona and Athletic in, yes, a Spanish football league, and the Spanish national anthem is played, the stadium fills with howls of derision, hoots and whistles from the supporters of both teams.

3  These are about the size of a tennis ball, perhaps a little smaller, of steel and coated in rubber.

4  E.g., the Controller could not be held responsible for the shooting by the police; individual police would have to be accused of firing the fatal shot if they were to be obliged to make a statement …

GARDAÍ MAKING FAMOUS CEMETERY A BATTLEGROUND?

Diarmuid Breatnach

Glasnevin Cemetery (Reilig Ghlas Naíon) is a famous Irish graveyard on Dublin’s northside, on the south bank of the Tolca river and not far from the Royal Canal and Mountjoy Jail. As well as those of other people of great fame and none, it contains the remains of the fallen in a number of battles. However, the cemetery itself has become something of a battleground of late.

Glasnevin Cemetery Tower Rainbow
Rainbow over the tower in Glasnevin Cemetery (photo by Lorcán Collins as mourners left the funeral of his colleague, Shane Mac Thomáis, resident historian of the Cemetery, who died 20th March 2014)

There was the Alan Ryan funeral around this time last year, early September 2013. Ryan had been a prominent member of the 32-County Sovereignty Movement and allegedly head of the Dublin Real IRA (also now known as “the New IRA”) and was shot dead, reportedly as a result of a conflict with drug dealers.

Ryan’s funeral was a massive affair attended by hundreds of mourners; the Irish state police, the Gardaí, policed it heavily. The hearse and cortege were temporarily stopped at the cemetery’s entrance by uniformed and plainclothed police while the grieving mother and family members were taken out of their car, which was searched. Scuffles with police broke out a number of times as the latter even penetrated to Ryan’s graveside.

More recently, on 31st March this year, a commemoration in Glasnevin of soldiers of the British Commonwealth who had been killed in the First World War attracted a smallish protest from Irish Republicans and socialists across the road from the cemetery’s gates. These commemorations are viewed by Irish Republicans and many socialists as events glorifying Britain’s part in WWI and also an attempt to build unity between Irish people and the British Armed Forces. The Commonwealth event, the unveiling of a “Cross of Sacrifice”, was attended by a member of the British Royal Family, which added metaphorical fuel to the fire. However, there were real flames as a British Union flag, brought by the protesters, was set alight and Gardaí Special Branch rushed to apprehend the burners. In the melee, a number of protesters were handled roughly by the police, some were pepper-sprayed and one was handcuffed and taken away by Gardaí, reportedly beaten on the way.  Another who objected to being jostled by Gardaí was also promptly arrested.

Most recent of all was the Hunger Strikers’ Commemoration in the Republican Plot inside the cemetery on 23 August.  The event was organised by the Sean Heuston 1916 Society to honour the 22 Irish Republicans who have died on hunger strike between 1917 and 1981. The 1916 Societies is a broad collection of  organisations of Irish Republicans in different localities who do not agree with the Good Friday Agreement and wish to see Ireland united and independent; one of their main objectives in the interim is to campaign for a referendum on the question of Irish unity. The commemoration was the second of its kind organised by the Sean Heuston 1916 Society and, as the previous year’s had passed without any untoward incident other than the usual Special Branch photographing and taking notes, they had no reason to believe that this year’s would be any different.

The event proceeded as planned with orations, song and laying of wreaths but the trouble came as people tried to leave the cemetery. They were waylaid inside the cemetery’s gates by plainclothes police of the Special Branch, i.e. the political police, and told to identify themselves and to give their addresses. Two who refused to do so unless they were shown reasonable cause were handcuffed and bundled into separate police vehicles. Others who had attended the event then blocked the police vehicles from leaving and many uniformed Gardaí arrived to assist the Special Branch. In the struggle, police were again quite rough and one punched a child in the face. Eventually the Gardaí were successful but both detained  men were released later that day without charge.

Many visitors and unconnected mourners attending the famous cemetery were visibly shocked by the incidents. The organisers made it clear to the staff of the cemetery who it was who had initiated the disturbance and had chosen to do so inside the cemetery grounds.

Apart from general harassment and attempted intimidation of Irish Republicans, it is difficult to see what the Gardaí hoped to gain from this provocation and why they had escalated their behaviour at a peaceful commemoration. `One possibility is that the intention was to discourage the management of the Cemetery from permitting such commemorations in future. The organisers moved quickly to call a meeting with the Cemetery management, which has already taken place and reportedly concluded positively. And so it should.

The Republican Plot, managed by the National Graves Association, a voluntary body which does great work, is within the Cemetery. The graves of many Irish Republican and Socialist martyrs and prominent activists are within this plot and also in other places within the grounds. Some, like the great hero Anne Devlin, go back as far as the United Irish of 1798 and of 1803. James Connolly gave the oration here in 1913 at the graveside of the ITGWU martyr Jame Byrne, a victim of the State during the Lockout that year.

Cathal Brugha funeral Glasnevin
Funeral at Glasnevin of Republican Cathal Brugha, shot dead by Free State Army in O’Connell Street, 1922.

In 1915, Patrick Pearse gave his famous oration to a huge crowd at the Glasnevin graveside of the Fenian Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa, whose body had been returned to Ireland by the IRB in the USA. O’Donovan Rossa had been jailed for planning an insurrection against the British in 1865 and, though released in 1870 as part of a general amnesty, had to agree to emigrate. In 1922, Cathal Brugha, having survived 14 bullet wounds during the 1916 Rising, was killed in O’Connell Street by Free State Army soldiers and his funeral cortege too, also to Glasnevin Cemetery, was a huge affair. In 1966, the remains of Roger Casement, hanged by the British for his role in the 1916 uprising (the last of the death sentences of the 1916 insurgents to be carried out), were brought home from England and reinterred in Glasnevin with an Irish state ceremony.

These historic moments and connections between Glasnevin Cemetery and the national and class struggles may be uncomfortable for some and the police harassment may be intended to deepen that discomfort. However, it is difficult to see how anyone, whether of State or of Cemetery management, could successfully impose a ban on commemorations within this famous graveyard where so many of the Republicans and Socialists of previous years lie and which has been the scene of commemorations for over a century.

End.