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Court jails 10, hundreds protest outside Mountjoy
Yesterday the High court jailed 10 bin tax protesters. Last night at very short notice over 300 people protested outside Mountjoy jail where some of them were being held. On Saturday a Dublin Council of Trade Unions march will leave Parnell Square around midday to march on Mountjoy jail.
last nights protest
The 10 jailed were part of a group of 24 activists mostly from Finglas dragged before the courts for blockading a bin truck in solidarity with the Fingal campaign. They refused to promise not to undertake such actions again and to cries of 'shame' the judge sent 9 of them down for two weeks. The tenth was a mother whom is breast-feeding a baby, so the judge 'only' gave her one-week.
Five of the ten are men and five are women. All the women are mothers and two are also grandmothers. Seven of the ten have no involvement with political organisations, something that blows apart the states claim that the campaign only exists because of the Socialist Party. Indeed of the three political activists only one is a Socialist Party member, the other two are members of the Independent Socialist Network, a local network that brings together socialists in Finglas.
This is a key moment for the Dublin campaign. Will these jailings intimidate the campaign or will others step forward to take their place. Last nights picket suggest the later is the case as the crowd chanted 'Jail 12, jail us all'.
The jailing of 'ordinary people' for daring to protest is a risky step for the state to take. Already last night the mood had visibly changed towards the Gardai, a cop car and van that drove through the crowd were spontaneously booed and hissed by most of the crowd. Joe Mooney from Working Class Action made the point from the platform that Finglas is an area that suffers from anti-social crime, in particular joy riding, but no injunctions had been taken against such actions.
While in the past many put forward 'more cops' as the solution to these problems the actions of the Gardai in arresting local residents for protesting shows where the real priorities of the police lie. It also demonstrates the complete lack of control local residents have over the actions or priorities of the Gardai. Some local cops may perform these actions reluctantly but when the orders come from above they are out there with the rest of them pushing people around or taking names for the courts.
Saturdays march will be very important for the campaign. Everyone who can should try and get along, not just to march along the route but also to talk to people about organising local blockades. It was announced from the platform that we would blockade the four bin truck depots on Monday, the march will be vital in getting the numbers along to these blockades that are needed to make them effective. While the cops have been confident to move against 20 or 30 people blocking a truck they allowed the Grangegorman blockade that involved 80+ to go ahead without any serious attempt to intervene.
The numbers willing to take action will decide the faith of the campaign. Not everyone is willing or able to go to jail, this is understood. Indeed out of the dozens dragged before the courts to date only 12 have chosen to go to jail, the rest had to promise to blockade no more trucks. There should be no pressure on people to be willing to go to jail, rather as has already happened the campaign should legally aid those who wish to avoid jail and support those who decide they are willing to go to jail on this issue.
What we need are big blockades, ones where the Gardai will feel unable to collect names for the courts without risking serious trouble. In any case the jails, in particular the women's prison, is already overcrowded. Rumours last night were that to make room for the 10 jailed last night some prisoners had to be given early release. They may be able to jail another dozen but there is no way they can jail the thousands involved in the campaign.
What is needed is for everyone to get involved in the blockades at the level they feel is appropriate for them. There is a lot more confidence in a crowd of a hundred or more then there is when a dozen block a truck or depot. We need numbers so don't wait for non-collection to arrive in your street. Get out and support blockades anywhere in your area. If you don't know where they are contact your local campaign and ask to be notified of them. Or simply get together with your neighbours and arrange your own.
These arrests will also add to the pressure on the unions to take action against the suppression of the campaign. Most unions now have policy on paper in opposition to bin charges. But over 15 years of social partnership means that most of the union leadership will not initiate any action, indeed in many cases they have been working to prevent groups of workers taking action. If there is to be a work stoppage it needs to be organised from below with the help of the handful of union officials who may help to organise such action.
The jailings show the government is very serious about defeating the anti-bin tax movement. The bin-tax is the tip of an iceberg of government policy that will see taxation transferred even further onto the shoulders of ordinary workers. We already pay 80% of direct taxation; the government is trying to ensure that corporations and the rich pay next to nothing.
This is what lies at the core of this struggle. What sort of country do we want to live in? Is it one where health services are cut while ordinary workers see soaring taxes to subsidise big business. Or is it one where the rich are taxed in order to fund the public services we all need.
As an anarchist I have a vision of a future world that goes beyond this, one where there will be neither rich nor poor, nor leaders or led. But this struggle is raising the immediate question of what sort of world we want. There are many answers to this; the first objective for all must be the defeat of the bin tax.