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Friday April 30, 2004 04:17 by Laurence Cox - Dublin Grassroots Network lcox at iol dot ie 087-9851029
press release and dossier of "dirty tricks"
Dublin Grassroots Network has expressed concern that the government is attempting to incite a riot. This follows a pattern of harassment, misrepresentation and intimidation apparently designed to raise tensions in advance of May Day protests. DGN has raised particular concerns about the use of undercover policemen, who have a history of acting as agents provocateurs.
DGN has also released a dossier of "dirty tricks" from the security forces and unscrupulous journalists.
Buying onions in Moore St. is now suspicious behaviour
Dublin Grassroots Network
April 29th, 2004
One of the groups organizing Mayday protests this weekend has expressed concern that the government are attempting to incite a riot. Dublin Grassroots Network said that Garda harassment of activists is designed to raise tensions in advance of the protest. Comments by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern that protestors are “mindless hooligans” were intended to justify police attacks on demonstrators in advance, according to the network.
Laurence Cox of Dublin Grassroots Network said, “Over the past two weeks we have seen a sustained campaign of Garda harassment of people in our network, including stopping people distributing leaflets, visits by Special Branch detectives, and trailing activists through the streets of Dublin. On Tuesday, the Guards felt the need to stop two members of the network who had gone to Moore St. market to buy food. The excuse offered was that ‘onions could be used as missiles’.”
Speaking as DGN released a dossier of security and media “dirty tricks” (below), Cox said “Arrests of activists on Tuesday and detention of others on Wednesday mark a continuation of this ratcheting up of tensions, along with a constant drip-feed of misinformation, off-the-record briefings and straightforward misrepresentation to the media. Bertie’s comments this week, attacking protestors as such, make it clear that this strategy comes from the top level of the government.”
Aileen O’Carroll of DGN said “We are particularly concerned by media reports that up to 1,200 Gardai disguised as demonstrators intend in infiltrate our protests. The Gardai have admitted that Italian police have helped with their planning, but the Italian police force has a notorious record in using police officers disguised as demonstrators to instigate riots. The organizers of the Genoa G8 protests believe that police officers disguised as demonstrators started much of the Genoa rioting.
“After Genoa, individual police officers admitted not only that this had happened but also that petrol bombs had been planted by police during their violent raid on the indymedia centre when dozens were hospitalized. This is why 8 of the 9 enquires launched after Genoa were into police behavior. Perhaps the same Italian police responsible for these actions are the ones advising the Irish Gardai? Previous protests in Dublin when uniformed but unnumbered Gardai went on the rampage against peaceful protesters illustrate the very real danger here.”
Dublin Grassroots Network is hoping for see large and peaceful protests over the May weekend and has released detailed plans on its web site at www.geocities.com/eufortress stressing its peaceful intentions. By contrast, O’Carroll said, Garda plans were not officially released until yesterday despite weeks of hints, threats and misrepresentations of protestors.
O’Carroll said, “We believe that this strategy of advertising a riot originates in the government rather than the Gardai. Therefore, we are demanding the following guarantees from the Minister of Justice:
1. That no Gardai, foreign police or other parts of the Irish security forces will infiltrate any of the protests disguised as demonstrators.
2. That all security forces deployed to police protesters be in uniform with clearly visible individual identification numbers.
3. That the rules of engagement for the day be made publicly available so that everyone can know under what conditions the Gardai can use water cannon or guns against peaceful protesters.
These are reasonable requests. If the government is unable to give these guarantees, our suspicion that this unpopular government intends to incite a riot will strengthen. We ask the citizens of Dublin to turn out peacefully and in large numbers to prevent this happening.”
DOSSIER OF “DIRTY TRICKS”
We are releasing this dossier in order to place on record some of the police and media response to Dublin Grassroots Network. We set out openly our intention of organising peaceful protests in Dublin around the issues of Fortress Europe, privatisation, EU militarism and social justice. What we got was a sustained campaign of intimidation, dirty tricks and misrepresentation.
This dossier is a very brief list of events, all of which can be readily documented from obvious sources (media archive, Indymedia web page). We hope after the events to develop a more detailed history in order to hold those responsible to account. This will be all the more necessary if, as we fear at present, the Government is attempting to advertise a riot.
The security forces: “dirty tricks” and the militarisation of policing
Aisling Reidy of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties noted earlier this week that they were “ very concerned that gardai, through stories fed to the media, is [sic] trying to soften up public opinion for a show down, by talking of potential violence and well planned attacks by subversives”. She observed that the Garda Siochana is in fact legally obliged to allow and protect peaceful protests.
These comments do not appear to have been heard by senior levels of the security forces, or by the Minister for Justice. We have to ask who ultimately benefits from the climate of tension which such activities have created. Political responsibility certainly lies with an unpopular government which lost the last free vote on European affairs (the first vote on the Nice Treaty, which faced protests of 100,000 people last year over its support for war and which has been facing widespread direct action in response to its attempts to impose bin charges?
“Dirty tricks”: behaviour in bad faith
Stated intention to use undercover police officers within demonstrations, despite the involvement of such officers in provocation at the G8 summit protests in Genoa (see http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/engEUR300122001!Open for a statement of Amnesty International’s concerns about the policing of Genoa)
Encouraging businesses to shut over the weekend and feeding this story to the media as an example of spontaneous concerns (see http://www.indymedia.ie/newswire.php?story_id=64654 for minute of a meeting with the Assistant Commissioner and the City Centre Businessman’s Association as part of this strategy).
Unfounded claims about plans for an “attack” on the Blanchardstown shopping centre
Harassment of Dublin Grassroots door-to-door leafletters, despite their legal right to do so (see http://www.indymedia.ie/newswire.php?story_id=64499 for an eyewitness account)
Stopping and questioning of activists after buying onions (!) in Moore St market (quote: “onions could be used as missiles”)
Arrest and detention of 2 activists on Thursday morning for hours despite their possession of passports and bank cards to prove ID
Videotaping of passengers arriving at Connolly from the Belfast train
Refusal to grant permission for the Another Europe is Possible march (this decision has been appealed)
Continuous generation of scare stories about “unrest” designed to justify the militarisation of policing, despite consistent lack of evidence.
The militarisation of policing
The use of the army, armed gardai, rubber bullets / “non-lethal weaponry”, water cannon, razor wire etc. to police a peaceful protest
Implication of “collective punishment” in comments such as those of Garda Complaints Board chief Gordon Holmes, which seem to suggest that if some protestors cause trouble, all deserve police violence (Examiner, 27.4.04)
Discussion of temporary detention centres and the intimidatory clearing of a wing of Cloverhill prison for protestors
The stated aim to prevent large groups of protestors gathering (Irish Times, 19.04.04; see also Harry Brown’s comments in the Evening Herald, 23.4.04)
The closure of the Phoenix Park for the first time in its history
Calls to suspend freedom of travel by Lord Mayor Royston Brady
This amounts to a virtual suspension of the constitution. We also note that the security forces are clearly acting in bad faith: if half of their allegations were justified, we would have expected charges to be brought against the organisers. Instead we have seen very few ministers or official spokespeople willing to appear in public, but widespread use of crime correspondents, ex-policemen, representatives of garda trade unions GRA and AGSI, “security consultants” etc. to represent the view of the security forces and ultimately of the Government.
Unscrupulous media: scare stories and silly stories
Harry Brown, in the Evening Herald (23.4.04), wrote that we have seen “some of the most atrocious journalism in living memory” around the May Day protests. We have seen widespread collusion between unsavoury elements of the security forces (quoted as “garda source”, “security sources” etc.) and lazy journalists out for a quick sensation at the expense of the truth. (There have also been some excellent, and brave, pieces of fair reporting in the face of a “moral panic” about the protests.)
Again, we have to ask who benefits from ignoring the key issues the protests are focussing on – “Fortress Europe”, privatisation, militarisation and social injustice – and from reducing all the events of a complex weekend down to a single march. We leave the answer to this particular conundrum up to the specialists in media studies, and to the honest colleagues of those who have treated political protest as a way to fill column pages.
The Irish Sun, on Saturday 24.4.04, ran a front-page article (backed up by almost a page inside) on a supposed gas scare from anarchists. What the article did not mention was that it would be sufficient to make such a warning to enable its supposed targets (EU heads of state at Farmleigh) to be provided with gas masks…
The Star claimed to have “infiltrated” a “secret meeting”, which was in fact an open meeting of the London WOMBLES. The photos accompanying the article show the words “Dublin Mayday” chalked on the door, as well as a more extensive chalked sign and a leaflet taped to the door. Challenged on this on the Late Late Show (23.4.04), the author of the article failed to defend himself.
Irish activists were the subjects of personalised smears in Ireland on Sunday on 8.2.04 and 25.4.04. See http://www.indymedia.ie/newswire.php?story_id=63361&comment_id=61453#comment61453 for details of how the journalist writing the first article behaved while “infiltrating” another supposedly secret meeting.
One activist received an anonymous phone call offering “guns and explosives” just minutes before her phone rang with a reporter from the Star, asking if DGN had been in contact with groups planning violence. Details on http://www.indymedia.ie/newswire.php?story_id=64274&topic=mayday2004&results_offset=60).
Consistent libelling and misrepresentation of the British-based WOMBLES organisation (see www.wombles.org.uk for more accurate versions).
Silly stories and wrong ones
Persistent claims in the early weeks of April that implausible numbers of activists would come to Dublin from abroad. Figures of 15,000 to 20,000 were routinely given.
Stories on 4.4.04 where Ireland on Sunday claimed that “anarchists” had “stockpiles of weapons” and the News of the World spoke of a “secret army” which was apparently plotting a “bloodbath”.
Consistent misrepresentation of the events of May Day 2002 in Dublin (actually May 6th), where gardai were filmed (and the film was shown on national television) attacking a peaceful Reclaim the Streets party.
Consistent misrepresentation of the facts of the G8 protests at Genoa, where protestor Carlo Giuliani was killed by police, hundreds of protestors were beaten in custody, and there were a series of judicial investigations into the behaviour of the Italian police force.
As a number of saner voices have commented recently, such behaviour involves those media who engage in it in advertising a riot. It raises tensions among protestors and police alike. We believe that poor-quality reporting, by consistently focussing on the hypothetical (or invented) possibility of violence, will bear a real responsibility for potential incidents this May Day weekend.
Dublin Grassroots Network