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Pictures of Shell to Sea Protest at Erris Refinery Site, Friday Morning Sept 14th
Sunday September 16, 2007 23:05 by NMI
Some pictures to show what it was like on Friday morning.
A fairly random selection, but perhaps they'll do, to give a flavour of the event, and people who were there can add their own accounts of the day.
Mine would be (briefly) I arrived at the site at 6.30AM or so. Driving past gate number two, we were stopped and searched by a number of members of the Garda Siochána. We noticed jeeps carrying Shell workers going into the site were not being stopped.
We went to Gate one as arranged and had a look around. Some of our group had not been to the site before, or had visited under very different circumstances, so even though it was dark it was good to have a calm look around.
We were soon joined by a few local people who we knew, and then some folks from Galway, and then lots more local people, and pretty soon the place was buzzin with about 200 hundred protesters jammed into the area in front of the gate and standing around the trailer. The GS were only in evidence in small numbers, and mostly staying in their cars.
The atmosphere was very good, with cups of tea being passed out and flyers being distributed. Someone gave us a photocopy of the words to a song they thought we could sing if we got bored, another a leaflet on Shell safety problems around the world. People were standing up and looking over the wall into the refinery.
At about 8.20 I saw a person who was being lifted up by a friend to look over the wall being struck by an object which looked to me like an iron bar, which was being held by someone on the Shell side of the fence. They was some sort of scuffle as the protesters grabbed the object and got it over the fence, while others scrambled or fell into the refinery itself.
More protesters joined those who were on the Shell side of the wall, and a few members of the GS ran into the protest group. One protester -at least- tried to complain about being struck by the security guards inside but were ignored. A few more protesters got over the fence. Someone pointed out to me that those inside were now in danger, so the best course of action would be to try and force the door of the site.
A few people managed to do this by simply pushing it in unison, and a small group went inside the site fence. Others actually left the site, and others stayed in the doorway.
I was surprised to see that the security guards inside had an array of iron bars and sticks to hand. Some members of the GS arrived and tried to close the door, but a number of protesters prevailed on them to open it to allow people free access to leave if they wanted to. However, many more people went inside the site than left. I'm certain some were pushed inside by the crush, and others simply didn't know what was going on and followed the crowd. There were no signs saying "no entry" on the outside wall, or if there were they were obscured by the crowd. The Garda Siochana members inside seemed not to know what to do. Some were very hesitant, others very aggressive.
Gardaí with video cameras were present, but they did not seem to show the same zeal as usual in their efforts. Perhaps they are simply tiring of the exercise, and the novelty of the camera work has worn off. Perhaps they have become worried by recent court cases where the video evidence has been more helpful to the defence than the the Garda side.
The door to the site was eventually shut, barring the protesters inside from leaving of their own free will.
Some caught just inside were attacked by the Gardaí and received injuries for which at least one received first aid when he eventually managed to allow the GS members to open the gate to let him out.
Meanwhile, a large number of protesters still inside the site were finding that there were many more GS members inside, including heavily armed riot police with no ID numbers on their paramilitary style uniforms.
After a long while, protesters were seen being beaten and carried out of the site by a large force of GS who then surrounded the demonstrators outside the main gate. Those who had been stranded on the refinery site showed evidence of injuries received from the GS members. Some protesters were driven out in the back of a police van and dumped in the roadway. We heard others had been arrested.
Everyone then sat down on the cement floor and a few letters of support were read out and a local man made a brief speech.
After a while a single Shell lorry was driven in to the site, its path being cleared by the GS pushing the protesters out of the way of the gate with extreme force. I did not see any serious resistance to being moved by any protester.
Some people then tried their best to get down to the bridge and the crossroads at gate number two, but were met by a large number of GS members who tried to block road access to pedestrians.
Protesters argued their way through by pointing out that the action of blocking the road was illegal. Others simply walked across the bog around the police.
At the bridge there was another large force of GS members who very forcefully cleared the roadway for trucks and jeeps. It was obvious that gate number two was being used to access the site by lorries, cement trucks and jeeps. Those who tried to block the path of the lorries, and some who were simply standing in the roadway, were attacked and pushed to the side by the Gardaí.
The atmosphere remained fractious and difficult, and it was only due to the extreme restraint shown by the demonstrators the situation remained reasonably calm. Some members of the Garda Siochána were clearly under severe strain, others seemed barely aware of what was happening, laughing and giggling like schoolboys.
Sadly, I had to leave the area at this point. I'm sure other people will have had very different experiences, and will have perhaps seen things that contradict what I saw.
I can only say what I saw with my own eyes, and report the truth as I believe it happened although I have kept in mind that people may not want to have their names mentioned or their actions catalogued in great detail since no doubt legal cases will follow on from the events of last Friday morning at Ballinaboy.