Tag Archives: Take Back The City

This afternoon.

Dublin city centre.

Scenes from The Take back The City Rally highlighting the housing and homeless crisis, which included a sit-down protest which closed traffic on O’Connell Bridge.

Yesterday: Masking The Reality

Rollingnews

Meanwhile…

Was it for this?

From top: A Mural in Ranelagh, Dubliun 6 by the Greay Area artist collective depicting the forced removal of protesters occupying a vacant premises; Bryan Wall

When protestors, under the banner of Take Back the City, occupied a vacant building on North Frederick Street in Dublin, they most likely expected that the government forces would come calling.

Usually this involves threats of legal action with the protestors eventually leaving of their own accord or being removed, sometimes with force, by the Gardaí.

North Frederick Street was different though. Instead of the usual Garda presence, the activists were now faced by masked private security — mercenaries given the context — who were backed up by masked Gardaí.

As expected whenever masked security forces make an appearance, and after literally beating and cutting down the front door, the activists were abused and attacked by the masked men. Four ended up in hospital with a range of injuries, including neck and head injuries.

At least one suffered a concussion which “will need further [medical] attention”. The reaction from the supporters of the state and various government ministers has been par for the course, which is absolutely unsurprising.

But, and this is what many seem to have missed, indicates something much more dangerous and sinister: That the government has both contempt and fear for such activism and that they will stomp it down no matter how it looks.

Contempt for activists and protestors is nothing new in the Irish political milieu. When the anti-water charge protests were at their peak Joan Burton was quick to dismiss the concerns of the activists by referring to the expense of their phones.

Similarly, when Leo Varadkar said there was a “very sinister fringe” involved in the same anti-water charge movement he was, like Burton, displaying a contempt for the activists and protests.

It is fine to question government policy but only within the polite and constrained bounds of Irish political discourse. This means you make representations to your local politician and they do their best to see that your wishes are examined.

Of course, this all depends on the fact that the politician in question deems it worthy of their interest and effort to bring your issue to the attention of others within the political system. If it isn’t worthy, then democracy has spoken and the system has functioned as designed.

Filtering of political issues ensures that the “real” work of governing can get on in spite of the interests of the populous.

When you dare to go around this hierarchy and engage directly with the world then you can be deemed as deserving of nothing but contempt given your disavowal of a perfectly functioning democratic system.

In this way you can then be denigrated as “sinister” or as not truly representing the working class given your particular choice of phone.

In the case of North Frederick Street, the activists are too ignorant to warrant even talking to, therefore they can be dealt with by a private mercenary force.

But the contempt shown for them also betrays a fear of this kind of activism.

This fear exists because the activists in question have gone around the system. Just as the fact that engaging directly with the world and undermining the top-down political hierarchy results in a feeling of contempt amongst the ruling classes, it also engenders fear.

Fear emerges because activism of the kind shown at North Frederick Street demonstrates that the current representative system of politics, in which people and ideas are filtered out, is highly inegalitarian and undemocratic.

To show another way in which society can function will cause a “crisis of democracy” — something I have written about earlier — whereby people who have previously been denied a voice in society finally find an outlet for it.

These kinds of people must not be allowed to gain a foothold, however. Any demonstration of an alternative to the current system must be suppressed.

Hence, the contempt and fear of the ruling elite legitimates their use of force. And that is what makes the violent eviction of the activists on North Frederick Street an important moment in Irish society.

Unless you are willing to play by the neo-liberal rulebook, you will be crushed regardless of how it looks. The system, as it is, must stand.

Those rushing to defend the fact that masked Gardaí were defending a masked private security force miss this very point. For them, the violence inflicted on others will never reach them. Oftentimes, however, people find themselves involved in political or social movements where they never had been before.

This is becoming increasingly so as neo-liberalism and climate change pummel the majority of the planet’s inhabitants. So whilst right now they see themselves as being out of reach of the baton of state-sanctioned violence, this could change at any moment.

All it takes is for one small event to politicise that person and then they are not only within the reach of the aforementioned baton, but they are on the frontlines of a movement.

Instead of realising it too late they must be made to realise now, while there is still time, that fascist tendencies can be as close as only one legislative moment away.

In the aftermath of the eviction, the Justice Minister, Charlie Flanagan, said that he would be in favour of legislation to ban the filming or photographing of Gardaí “as they try to go about their policing duties.”

Although the Taoiseach, when asked, said that the government had no plans to introduce such legislation, the mere suggestion of its introduction, by a Justice Minister, should be of great concern.

The concept of a masked police force supported by, or supporting, a likewise masked private security force is a central pillar of an authoritarian state. This is axiomatic and anybody concerned with politics understands this very simple concept.

That a Minister of Justice can advocate for a more or less anonymised police force means that he either has no understanding of democracy, and its obverse, or he does, and favours the method that involves the population being kept in line by brute force.

Although in the instance of Frederick Street no specific legislation was passed in order to violently evict them in defence of a property-owning class, it should be self-evident that the tools of repression can be used according to the whims of those who hold the monopoly on said violence. Here that monopoly holder is the state.

With the suggestion put forward by the Justice Minister in mind, it is obvious how the state resorting to violence and creating a framework in which it can flourish is, if not at the forefront of the minds of some government ministers, then it at least occupies some space in their range of tactics; out of sight but never out of mind.

Along with state violence the use of contempt and hysteria both play an important role in ensuring the success of the former. If this involves intimating or outright claiming violence was carried out by the actual victims, or suggesting that they are inherently violent given their specific set of political or social beliefs, then all the better.

Victimhood at the hands of state-backed violence is not a legitimate defence in the eyes of apologists.

Having the temerity to question how society functions is enough to ensure your place outside of the acceptable limits of political discourse. This being the case, the state and its supporters denigrate, obfuscate, and fearmonger to their heart’s content.

In the aftermath of the evictions, one group in particular has been singled out. An anarcho-communist group, the Workers’ Solidarity Movement (W.S.M.), have had their role in the occupation on Frederick Street highlighted by the state broadcaster.

As the WSM. pointed out, “any or all of the 17 groups that actually comprise Take Back the City” could have been mentioned, among other things, in the reporting of the eviction.

Instead, the W.M. was the only one named. Similarly, former politician, and now talking head, Ivan Yates decried the occupiers, labelling them as “anarchists” and thereby, in his mind at least, calling into question their motives.

That Yates unlikely knows the finer points of anarchist philosophy or theory is of no importance to the wider message. In his mind, anarchism is synonymous with chaos and violence.

In labelling the occupiers as “anarchists” in the derogatory sense he intends, the message is clear. Anyone who is an “anarchist” can be dealt with by masked men willing to commit violence on behalf of state power.

And given that the WSM. were the only organisation involved in Take Back the City who were named by RTÉ., the goal is clear: Undermining the activity of groups like Take Back the City but more importantly, attempting to counter the message that they send to people.

A message that tells people state power can be bypassed and that direct action is an inherently positive undertaking is a threat to a system which relies on the filtering out of certain groups of people.

Brendan Howlin, the leader of the Labour Party, has said that the occupiers and protestors of Take Back the City are “not something I would be associated with”, presumably lamenting the breakdown of the filtering process.

Given Labour’s recent history of its betrayal of the working class this is unsurprising. It is nonetheless maddening in its routine defence of the current political and social system which has seen homelessness and an artificially created housing crisis take hold of the country.

But these issues are unimportant relative to the fact that the system as it currently functions must survive; unimportant to the government and its apologists. If that means masked men working for private security have to kick down doors and beat a few protestors, so be it.

To try and bypass the system in order to create a more just society, or to even merely demonstrate in protest of such injustice, is to declare oneself worthy of a visit from men wearing masks.

What this means for future protests in Ireland is unknown but one thing is certain. Once used, private security in order to support state power is a genie not put back into its bottle.

And whilst this puts activists and protestors on the defensive in the short-term, if anything it shows how effective something like Take Back the City is and how fearful the state has become.

Bryan Wall is a PhD candidate in the departments of sociology and philosophy in University College Cork. His interests are in citizenship, human rights, democratic and political theory, and the history of Zionism. Read his work here

Rollingnews

A Take Back The City rally in August (top) and last week (video above)

Tomorrow.

The Take Back The City housing activist group are holding a ‘National Day of Action’ with events taking place across the country.

Supporters will gather at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin at 1pm; in Balbriggan, Dublin at 2pm; at Bishop Lucey Park in Cork at 12.30pm; in Belfast City Hall at 11.30am; on O’Connell Street in Sligo at 12.30pm; and on West Street in Drogheda, Co Louth at 10am.

More as they announce it.

Take Back The City

Sam Boal/Rollingnews

UPDATE:

A map detailing all of the Take Back The City events taking place across Ireland tomorrow.

Via Take Back The City (Dublin)

This afternoon.

Ranelagh, Dublin 6

A work from the Grey Area collective which is “a collaboration of multiple artists, creating works across several mediums with the aim to change the laws surrounding large-scale public artwork in Ireland…And doing our bit for those in need”.

In fairness.

Via Subset Dublin

Grey Area Exhibition

From top: Frederick Street removal: Mick Wallace; Joan Collins; Claire Daly and Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan in the Dáil today.

This afternoon.

In the Dáil.

Further to the eviction of housing activists from a vacant property at North Frederick Street last week…

Independents 4 Change TD Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan who authorised members of An Garda Síochána – who wore fire retardant hoods – to attend the eviction.

Joan Collins, also an Independents 4 Change TD, asked Mr Flanagan on what basis were the gardai asked to attend.

Ms Collins referred to the mater as “very, very sinister”.

Independents 4 Change TD Clare Daly then said:

I think we have to be very conscious that this incident has set back public confidence in An Garda Síochána considerably. That’s actually my starting point on this issue.

We have, at the backdrop, an unprecedented housing crisis. Where people are homeless, families are homeless. And that the Garda organisation, whose motto is supposed to be ‘to protect and serve’, rallies around to carry out an eviction – resonates really badly with the Irish public and you can call it politically with a small ‘p’.

It was lunacy whoever made the call.

“And, like Deputy Wallace, I don’t believe it was the Commissioner [Drew Harris].

“The minister says the gardai were only upholding the law. Well my neighbour’s house was broken into and they called the guards and they didn’t’ see one for love nor money. That’s their job, as well.

“They chose to take sides in this incident. There was no signal that they were going to be public order problems of the scale that merited masks and balaclavas and all this type of carry-on and palaver which was really intimidatory.

“And it does deserve an investigation. It particularly deserves and investigation, given that concrete evidence has been produced that shows that the security firm were breaching the law and yet the perception was that the gardai were there to protect them and not actually the public.”

Mr Flanagan, in his response, said:

“I would reiterate again, that the gardai present faced a most difficult task, managing protest, in enforcing the law. There was a matter of abuse, including racial abuse, online threats and intimidation, came to light at the weekend.

“Such threats are utterly unacceptable, rightly being investigated. Gardai work on our behalf. They need support from the public, not intimidation, not abuse. As I’ve said Commissioner Harris has made a statement in relation to the protest. I understand he’s requested a report from Assistant Commissioner DMR, to see what lessons can be learned from the event.

“I can assure the house my department continues to work closely with all stakeholders including An Garda Síochána, to further enhance the safety of the public at such events, while safeguarding the fundamental right of people to protest.

“Of course if people have concerns about the way the garda behave, which I’ve just heard, if people have those concerns, in relation to this or, indeed, any other matter, there are established procedures for pursuing such matters. Deputies are aware of the role of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission [GSOC] in this regard…”

Previously: What’s Going On Here?

From top: A demonstration on North Frederick Street following the forced removal of housing activists from a vacant property on the street last week; Marian Finucane; Anthony Sheridan.

When RTÉ was a national broadcaster the station provided a reasonably balanced news output. In recent years, however, since the station began to serve government rather than citizens, news manipulation has taken precedence over factual reporting and professional analysis.

On yesterday’s Marian Finucane Show on RTÉ Radio One, for example, listeners were subjected to an intelligence insulting, extremely short, cartoon-like discussion on the disturbing events that occurred on North Frederick street during the week involving Gardai and housing protesters:

Panelist: “In fairness, Josephine Feehily and Drew Harris came out and said, no, that shouldn’t have happened.”

Marian Finucane: “And yet and yet and yet..its tough on gardai. I thought it looked… I mean I was astonished at how it had come about.”

Panelist: “Look, there is an issue around social media , there’s no doubt about that, but look, we expect to see people in balaclavas in the Basque country or dealing with the Real IRA or whatever. We don’t expect to see gardai in balaclavas policing genuine protests about housing.”

Another panelist: “I think the public were very, very upset about it and I’m thinking of something Theo Dorgan said once ‘I thought I was born into a republic’ and you see these private balaclava-clad guards arriving in a van. But protesting has changed, I think the gardai are very measured in the way they handle the physical and verbal abuse they get.”

Then another panelist changed the subject by referring to a protest Ms Finucane had participated in 48 years ago. Ms Finucane, seemingly delighted at the diversion, went on to reminisce about another protest she attended in the last century – and that was it.

That was the sum total analysis of the disgraceful and disturbing events in North Frederick Street where the gardai behaved more like second-rate nightclub bouncers than a professional police force.

Possibly under pressure by her producer to keep discussion of this embarrassing Government/gardai scandal to an absolute minimum, Finucane, in a fluster, did as she was instructed.

“Mmm…well…ah…I mean..we’ll move on very quickly. I think that deserves more conversation but I’m just watching my clock here and…”

Watching her clock? The discussion was taking place just half way through a two-hour long show and this major public interest story gets a grand total of 1 minute 56 seconds coverage.

This is not news analysis, it’s blatant news manipulation. No doubt, Fine Gael and the gardai are delighted with RTÉ’s collaboration in this type of warped current affairs analysis.

But RTÉ cannot escape the fact that, day by day, its reputation as a professional and balanced current affairs outlet is reaching the same zero credibility rating as that of our police force.

RTÉ news bias – Destroying credibility (Anthony Sheridan, Public Inquiry)

Meanwhile…

Hmm.

Previously: Garda Sources Say

Meanwhile…

There you go now.

From top: Masked gardai at North Frederick Street on Tuesday night; Garda Commissioner Drew Harris

The use of hoods by gardaí attending a protest on North Frederick Street in Dublin earlier this week was not correct, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has said.

In a statement, Mr Harris said the use of fire retardant hoods by public order officers is a matter for the operational commander on the scene.

However, he said the form of dress used by gardaí at the “event was not correct as it is policy that if it deemed necessary to use the hood then it should be used in tandem with a protective helmet“.

” The people who had occupied the building left the building peacefully in accordance with the High Court order. Subsequent to this, a small crowd failed to leave the area despite repeated warnings from An Garda Síochána under the Public Order Act and five people were arrested.”

….The newly appointed commissioner also said he has requested a report from Patrick Leahy, the Assistant Commissioner for the Dublin Metropolitan Region, “to see what lessons can be learnt from the event.

Harris says use of hoods by gardaí ‘was not correct’ (RTÉ)

Meanwhile…

“I think like a lot of people, I didn’t like to see a private security firm in balaclavas, that’s the kind of image that anybody doesn’t want to see on their TV screens.

However, when it comes to gardai, they were wearing hoods in one and ski masks in the other. They are wearing hoods in case there is a risk of fire or something being thrown at them and they wear the ski masks in some cases to protect their identities.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar this afternoon.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar hits out at balaclava wearing ‘heavies’ from Dublin housing protest (Irish Mirror)

Eamonn Farrell/Rollingnews

Earlier…

From top: protest on North fFederick Street, Dublin last night; This morning’s Irish Times

On Tuesday late afternoon, “a private firm acting for the owner of the premises” supported by gardai forced their way into 34 North Frederick Street, Dublin 1,  vacant for three years, using an angle grinder and a sledgehammer.

Five people were arrested and at least one person was hospitalised during the removal in which some gardai used batons.

Claims made by Take Back the City, the Irish Civil Liberties Union and Amnesty International Ireland concerning the tactics used and the ‘frightening’ optics were this morning refuted by Garda sources, according to the Irish Times.

Via Conor Lally the paper’s security and crime editor:

Garda sources have disputed much of what the group has claimed. They say the incident was not an eviction, pointing out those in the building were occupying it as a protest action for weeks, had never lived there and had no substantive link to it.

So. Not an eviction.

They further point out the building was office space before it became vacant some years ago and has not been a residence for many years.

OK. Not even a house.

The protesters had been ordered by the High Court to leave the building by August 28th and had declined to do so.

Justifying the masked men?

A number of men wearing balaclavas, who were acting for the landlord, used power tools to gain access on Tuesday evening to remove the small number of protesters still left inside.

And who were they?

The men wearing the balaclavas were not working for a security company. Instead, they work for a company specialising in taking possession of assets, usually when a dispute of ownership has arisen.

Really?

It may seem like a subtle distinction but it means they contravened no laws in declining to identify themselves to the protesters. And that means the Garda was not supporting an illegal action, as has been claimed.

And the gardai wearing balaclavas?

The balaclavas worn by the public order gardaí are part of the Garda “tactical” uniform and they are a safety item; to protect from corrosive liquids and burns.

Ah now.

However, Garda sources said few gardaí deployed to police an event that they suspect will be dubbed an “eviction” would want to be photographed or videoed at it.

They wear them to events they suspect may be called something else by somebody?

And because of the stigma involved, and because they cannot choose their tasks, gardaí will often wear their balaclavas to conceal their identities.

To recap: not an eviction, not a house, not a security company and not balaclavas but identity-concealing safety masks.

Nothing to see here.

Move along, folks.

Claim and counterclaim over end of Dublin ‘occupation’ (Conor Lally, Irish Times)

Last night: Not Backing Down

Previously: The Irish Times Says Sorry To Maurice McCabe

Maurice McCabe And The irish Times Part 1 and Part 2

Meanwhile

Go about your business.

Please, folks.

Andrew Butler was one of the people injured during the eviction of housing activists from the occupied 34 Frederick Street North, Dublin 1, on Tuesday night.

In the clip above, filmed at last night’s rally in support of the activists, he describes what happened to him.

He received four stitches to his hand (see above) in the Mater Hospital, Dublin, following the eviction.

Via Nugent Eugent

Meanwhile…

Last night.

In Trinity News.

Journalist Peter Kelly reported on an interview with Trinity College Dublin student Conchúir Ó Ráidigh who was arrested and later released on Tuesday evening, following the removal of housing activists from 34 Frederick Street North, Dublin 1 – after it was occupied for 25 days.

Mr Kelly reported:

Recalling his arrest, Ó Ráidigh told Trinity News that he was “grabbed” on entering North Frederick Street last night as Gardaí evicted occupiers. “They grabbed me, three or four of them, more or less instantaneously the minute I stepped onto the road.” He added that “usually you’d expect some kind of warning like ‘get off the road’ or ‘move over there’ and if you comply you’re okay and you won’t get that treatment.”

“They dragged me pretty strategically behind the parked garda public order unit van and there I got pretty badly roughed up,” said Ó Ráidigh. He remembered the incident and said that: “I was out of view of everybody, but they were putting punches into me, I got knees, I got elbows and the most serious thing I got was a knee to the head.”

He recalled that he was “adrenalised [sic]” and so “didn’t really feel” the pain at the time. “It wasn’t quite as noticeable, and when I got into the cell I could feel it getting worse and worse.”

Later in the night, Ó Ráidigh went to hospital for his injuries. He stated that: “I had very low energy and the decision was made that I had to go to hospital. I was taken, and I had scans taken through the night.”

Outlining his injuries, Ó Ráidigh reports that he suffered soft tissue damage through his neck, a small bone deviation, and a concussion. He was also told there was a possible “small bleed” in his brain.

Arrested Trinity student Conchúir Ó Ráidigh speaks out on his injuries (Peter Kelly, Trinity News)

Earlier: Garda Sources Say

Yesterday: Not Backing Down

This evening.

Scenes from the Take Back The City rally.

The rally started with housing activists and supporters gathering at 34, Frederick Street North, Dublin 1 – from which housing activists were removed last night.

They then started making their way, stopping off at Parnell Monument, to another occupied house on Belvedere Place where activists have been ordered to leave by 6pm tomorrow.

Follow here

Previously: What’s Going On Here?

‘How Can You Justify These Actions?’

Questions For Drew

Pics Rollingnews and Take Back The City

According to the source of the top pic, the Greater Manchester Police van was due to be auctioned in 2014.

Anyone?

Pics: Flickr and Jack Power

Earlier: ‘How Can You Justify These Actions?’

Yesterday: What’s Going On Here?

Related: Van used by masked men to secure Dublin property not taxed since 2014 (Jack Power, The Irish Times)