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Shannon March 1st

category national | miscellaneous | news report author Tuesday March 11, 2003 19:14author by Sylvia Pankhurst - Anarchist Federation Report this post to the editors

Report and anaylsis on the Grassroots day of action in Shannon on March 1st.

In the week running up to the March 1st Action, two charter companies carrying American troops through Shannon pulled out, citing “security threats”. World Airways having already pulled out, according to media reports, this leaves one charter company hired by the American military still using Shannon airport, as well as direct military flights.

Simultaneously, perhaps afraid of being successful, liberals and lefties pulled out of the demonstration. A press release sent out by a local Green party member played up the “threat of violence”, and was issued in the name of the Peace and Neutrality Alliance (a lobby group) and in the name of Mid West Against Military Aggression (a local broad based anti-war group).

In both cases apparently without consultation with the rest of the membership of those groups. The Labour Party, the Green Party, and Sinn Fein all pulled out – all without consulting the rank and file – in the case of the first two at least, individual party members refused to follow the dictat of their leaders.

The Socialist Party and Socialist Worker’s Party marched in a separate contingent which did not take part in the direct action, but meandered up to the terminal building. The Green Party had their national conference 30 minutes up the road where Shannon was high on the agenda for discussion!!!!!

So what happened?

Firstly as had been said, two charter companies pulled out. Secondly, there was no violence from the protestors. Thirdly the only violence came from the police – ten arrests and at least one person injured, a violence which was facilitated by the stunning lack of solidarity shown to the direct action wing of the anti-war movement. As well as this current episode there manages to be anti-war demonstrations where there is no mention of people in prison for opposing the war.

So why? A recent Labour Youth leaflet called for non-violent direct action at Shannon. Issues of Socialist Worker have argued for mass direct action. The aforementioned Green Party member has stood up in public meetings and said ‘if it takes direct action then that’s what it takes’.
Ogra Sinn Fein have as their symbol the Molotov cocktail for fucks sake!!!!! So when’s it gonna happen? All these groups are part of the “Irish Anti-War Movement” – and as such all were invited to co-operate with, and participate in, the organisation of this action. All refused.

Meanwhile there is no empirical evidence that ‘public opinion and protest marches’ will alter the situation – and clear cut evidence that direct action at Shannon has changed things. If you don’t believe me ask North American Airlines and Miami Airlines why they pulled out of Shannon, or ask Jane Fort – acting head of the U.S. embassy in Dublin.

Now if you can stomach the offensive twaddle about “violence” and “destruction” from the representative of a state guilty of mass murder (must be reading from the same script as the above leftists) read what she was saying in the Sunday newspapers – “The difficulty at Shannon seems to have been that people who expressed themselves for peace acted in violent ways”, “the combination of two back to back incidents of real destruction would prompt any company to ask if it could put people in harm’s way, people who might be working ! on planes or riding on planes”, “If I have understood correctly, the websites of some of the activists have been fairly threatening: they have wanted to walk over the perimeter fence or breach it.”

Alternatively you could play by the system’s rules - do what you are permitted to do – Jane Fort will probably love you, there will be no controversy, you’ll have a nice media image, no political backlash……and you’ll get absolutely no where.

Direct Action at Shannon?
So how did our day go?
Upon arriving within a mile or so of the airport we were welcomed by a group of police who boarded the bus and searched for weapons or items that could be used to do damage to the fence. They found a load of lunchboxes, a big fuck off video camera, 3 cans of spray paint and a rope. What the hell were we planning?
Soon enough we arrived in Shannon town centre where the usual suspects of these events were hanging around big red flags with yellow fists, no it wasn’t the SWP, apparently it was the IAWM (Irish Anti War Movement)!
We made our way to the white flags which were the designated flags for the people intending to participate in the direct action, the second group, very much smaller, were designated the pink flags this was the supporters group and had no intention of engaging in the direct action but supported those who were.
From here a rather unorganised group (Grassroots only) headed to the gates of the airport where the group stopped and listened to one or two speeches explaining the ideas behind the action and what was going to happen, why we were here, etc… etc… blah! blah! blah!
From here the crowd walked to the fence with arms (sort of) linked and converged on the fence which was protected by 450 armed cops, riot cops, k9 units, water cannons, mounted cops and two choppers. Hell, we felt really special!
At this point a standoff fell in, what was supposed to happen was when the crowd were fully lined up, a fog horn would sound , this never happened. The entire crowd who were ready to go, basically stood face to face with the cops for another hour or more! During this time the IAWM march passed by and went off into the distance, our standoff remained intact!
There were 300 people at the fence, not all of the cops were there, in my opinion around 150-200 were present at our section, the rest were protecting the fence elsewhere and walking about with the IAWM. It can be said that the fence was too protected but at this stage the crowd of 300 in my opinion could have done just about anything it wanted to.
After about an hour long standoff with the cops the line began moving at pace towards a less protected part of the fence. The cops were caught off guard, senior cops had to motivate the more junior members who weren’t sure about what was occurring and were unable to catch up with the line which had broken up at this point. In other words it was a large mass of people moving fast towards the fence with that was very unprotected.
A chance?
At this point pissed off people who came to participate in civil disobedience or direct action decided to go for the fence, several attempts were made by attaching anchors to the fence in the hope of pulling it down, the lack of support by some people who called to form another line caused these moments of attack to be easily thwarted by the police as they had no support whatsoever.
After this the entire thing got a bit messy and some arrests were made. Little attempt was made to blockade the paddy wagons that were taking arrestees away. No attempt was made to continue the attack. This was down to the fact that it would appear that mass confusion set in, some people took charge and led the way out of the airport, who decided this and why is not known to this observer.
Success?
Varied, but not a clear victory. Yes, we managed to get 300 people to Shannon with the intention of ripping down a fence and occupying the grass near the airfield.
We managed to get the state to waste 1 million euro on security for Shannon warport. But beyond that what did we achieve.
We managed to show ourselves as highly unorganised, time should have been spent organising things before we headed off to the airport, as it stood, the pink bloc and white bloc were very unorganised.

Several decisions were made rather undemocratically, this wasn’t a pre planned act of sabotage but a classic example of the tyranny of structurelessness as some people took on the position of spokespersons for 300 people with varied views.
A second plan, plan b was discussed and in my opinion should have been implemented as soon as it was obvious that the initial plan was not going to come to fruit but again that tyranny of structurelessness allowed for that to be totally ignored and to a certain extent not even considered!
What is needed is a totally new approach to the organising of such direct actions in the future.
My only problem with the day was the lack of democracy and open discussion, and too many fucking speeches for a day of direct action, fuck sake everyone knew why they were there, did we really have to be told two or three times?
I think all agree that the Grassroots Gathering is a good thing and it was one of the main features that allowed 300 people to turn up at Shannon ready to rip down a fence. But what has to brought into question is the entire structure of the Grassroots Network, for example, would it not have been better to split into affinity groups which could act as a cluster but in the end as independent groups ready to take decisions when faced with a situation.

And affinity groups could have had a special tasks, for example blockade mass freeing of people who didn’t want to be arrested. Each of these affinity groups should have had a delegate so if there was a need for a meeting these people could represent and report back to their group. Nothing like this occurred.

Also the model of a mass action with an announced plan is one imported from Italy, where Ya Basta!, apart from being equipped with body armour, are, critics allege, engaged in symbolic pre-arranged conflicts with the police, and are a somewhat authoritarian outfit.

The only successful mass direct actions at Shannon have occurred not on the two Grassroots ‘days of action’, but on Irish Anti-War Movement demonstrations…and rather than being announced and planned before hand have been either spontaneous or initiated by a small group. What we need is a cohesive block made up of small groups, ready to initiate action. Furthermore we need to go through a long process before we reach the level where we have the cultural/organisational capacity for this, and perhaps the best way of achieving this is through actions on a local level.

Clearly on the day there was no non-hierarchical organisation, but rather announcements and decisions being made that most of the people in the line were not even aware of – again we must develop the affinity group/spokes council structure.
Finally to end on a positive note.
“Transport Workers Resistance-Belfast Local decided to take action as well. So on the day (march 1st) members of TWR along with comrades from the Belfast Media Collective entered the terminal, going through tight security easily. At 2.30pm TWR members started leafleting to the workers of Shannon Airport TWR publication and a leaflet specifically made for Shannon. TWR members got spotted by the police pretty soon but nonetheless they managed to target as many workers as possible. Then left the terminal the same peaceful way they entered. This action was a success.
TWR also did this action in solidarity with all other transport workers who have been taking action against the war globally.”
for more information please contact: tw_resistance@yahoo.co.uk

In conclusion, organisation was poor, the plan was useless, the potential squandered, and leftist sabotage hurt badly (like when Sinn Fein pull out cause of ‘potential violence’!!!!!) – but we still won a victory – two charter companies pulled out, the sad thing is we could have bagged the whole lot there and then.

Related Link: http://www.afireland.cjb.net
author by Amandapublication date Tue Mar 11, 2003 20:01author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Thanks for wasting another million Euro on Garda overtime at Shannon. Thats on top of the million wasted on repairing the plane Attacked earlier.

Bloody ingenious at a time when the people are lying on trollies in Hospitals. The Mater Hospital are closing down wards all the time due to lack of monies (70 beds closed in the last week alone).No maternity unit in Monaghan and a baby dies as a result. But I suppose you shower dont give a toss about the rest of us ordinary decent citizens. You have your day of play acting like adolescents around the fence at Shannon, and perhaps you get off on that. What the hell is so wrong with peaceful protest?????????? The 100,000 peolpe who marched peacefully in Dublin had a massively powerful impact, totally the opposite to your crappy demonstration at Shannon which actuallt damaged the image of anti-war protest in this country. The bottom line is that nobody likes bullies, be they in the school yard or spitting at cops at Shannon.

author by Boredpublication date Tue Mar 11, 2003 20:05author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Nooooooooooooooooooo!!!!

author by Curious and curiouserpublication date Tue Mar 11, 2003 20:33author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Instead of banging on about Shannon screw-up, is there any chance of a feature or photos or anything about Cork march which i hear had thousands.

author by King Mobpublication date Tue Mar 11, 2003 21:46author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Y'know you could have gotten off your arse taken photos and written a report yourself you lazy git.

Then your curiousity would be sated and I would not have to kill you...

But alas...Now how do you like to be killed?

Oh and Amanda, I think the money Berties spending on jets pales into insignifigance the cost of Shannon as does the cost of the flood and morairty tribunal.

And hey guess what the Policing bill for the average weekends drunken debaunchery is? Or this weekends even.

author by ipsiphipublication date Tue Mar 11, 2003 23:04author address author phone Report this post to the editors

all the info. you need is on open source websites, and is published with analysis by the mainstream media on an anual basis in a supplement called "BUDGET", that monies assigned to the Justice department of which the Garda are the main recipient do not normally find themselves re-asigned to Health.
The Mater Hospital is funded by the Health section of the Irish state through direct taxation and other means and no money in Health has ever gone to the Gardaí. I think if you are really thorough in your research you will find that the money spent on protecting Shannon WarPort from protesters in this last year has only affected the future purchasing power of the Gardaí. I think you will also find on the basis of studies on the efficacy of Garda use of new equipment and their firearms that quite probably less equipment and firearms for the Gardaí will mean less people in Emergency Wards.
Though again I could just be a smartarse.

author by Cliona Townepublication date Tue Mar 11, 2003 23:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

As the war begins there will be further direct action..weather permitting.

author by Paulpublication date Wed Mar 12, 2003 11:15author address author phone Report this post to the editors

In response to "Curious and Curiouser" re the Cork rally on 8th March, here are some links which you may have missed...

http://www.indymedia.ie/cgi-bin/newswire.cgi?id=33498&start=40

http://www.indymedia.ie/cgi-bin/newswire.cgi?id=33267&start=60

author by Andrewpublication date Wed Mar 12, 2003 12:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

First off I think the anonymous trots who are 'bored' with the Shannon discussion are really understandably embarassed by the roles their organisations played on the day. In particular the disgraceful behaviour os SP TD Joe Higgins verbally attacking protesters at the moment they were being arrested and local SP's members in Shannon setting out to create panic about the protest. It's ironic the SP are bored so quickly, they don't seem to suffer from the same boredom in relation to the Sligo bin tax vote for instance.

The article itself is unfair in a number of respects on those who played a role in organising GNAW. The problem of decision making was not so much 'tyranny of structurelessness' but rather that only Dublin and Cork had selected delegates for the day. For the most part we actually followed the plan agreed in advance some of the more trival deviations like the lack of an air horn blast have already been explained on the GNAW list. Where decisions were made they were made by clusters of these delegates, this included the decision to meet before the gate on the way into the airport and other decisions criticised above.

Likewise there were no self appointed spokespeople rather Dublin had selected 4 spokespeople in advance of the day (including myself). All this had been notified in advance of the day to others around the country using the GNAW email list and no objections had been raised.

I'm a little surprised that the AF has published these accusations given that all this was clarified on the internal GNAW list after the event. It might be expected that in that context such a report might at least point this out (even if they don't accept these clarifications).

A more general point. Although the day eneded up having a resemblance to a Ya Basta style event without the body armour this was not the intention. And it is certainly NOT the case that only Ya Basta publicise the details of direct actions in advance. All attempts at mass (rather then small group) direct actions that I'm aware of require advance notice in order to involve large numbers of people. The Faslane blockades are one example, another was actually mentioned in the plan, Gandai's salt march.

It certainly seems to be clear to everyone involved that the plan could have worked if there were much larger numbers of people willing to carry it through. This remains a real possibility, and should be the focus for the future. It's certainly the case that this demonstration was far more succesful then the previous GNAW one, largely because a lot of lessons had been learnt from that. We need to keep building on that.

author by Gaillimhedpublication date Wed Mar 12, 2003 13:59author address author phone Report this post to the editors

the money spent on the gardai for shannon might mean thay cant afford to buy those steel telescopic night sticks theyre currently evaluating as a replacement for their wooden batons.

http://unison.ie/irish_independent/index.php3?ca=9&issue_id=4407
http://www.ainfos.ca/02/jun/ainfos00227.html

nice photo of the batons here
http://store.yahoo.com/beprepared4/seldefbat.html

Related Link: http://store.yahoo.com/beprepared4/seldefbat.html
author by Syliva Pankhurst - Anarchist Federationpublication date Wed Mar 12, 2003 14:01author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"I'm a little surprised that the AF has published these accusations"

Get used to it.

"we actually followed the plan agreed in advance"

Both the agreement on the Dublin Bus and the agreement of the delegate meeting in Galway was that the action would continue after the fence plan failed. You know this is the truth so stop lying. Did the people with the megaphones (and remember the big thing about SWP megaphones at a previous Shannon?) - including one supplied by myself (and note I wish to remain anonymous on this site) - facilitate this??? And where were the people who talked big about direct action when it came to doing it????
So how are you going to have direct action when you are left with just the people who talk about it????

Related Link: http://www.afireland.cjb.net
author by Andrewpublication date Wed Mar 12, 2003 14:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Get used to it."

Look you can publish what ever accusations you like but an honest approach when a 'fact' is contested is to at least acknowledge that its contested. Calling me a 'liar' when you are not even willing to put your name behind your claims is even more damaging, even more so when other AF members have agreed that what was decided was open to interpretation. Frankly I'm not going to accept your 'right' to anonomously engage in character assassination. !!!This is the only time I'm going to tell you this!!!

Secondly I saw you running around with a megaphone, why didn't you use it? If you disagreed with what was going on why didn't you try and get a delegates meeting together? Running up to people and demanding they organise X or Y for you, and then storming off when they try and discuss it is bullshit. Even more so when you go on with this sort of behaviour afterwards.

As far as I'm concerned I was following through what Dublin had agreed. I accept that there are other legtimate interpretations of what that agreement was (and I don't call those who have these interpretations 'liars'). Difference of interpretation is precisly WHY we need a working delegate system on the day to sort this out.

"And where were the people who talked big about direct action when it came to doing it????"

I've no idea what this means as I actually was there when an attempt was made at the fence. Discussing this further on a public site in advance of the court cases seems a little bit dim but part of the problem was that most people were not expecting the grappling hooks (and so were slow to react) and even more people could not see them (because they were too far down the line and concentrating on what was in front of them).

author by TROTWATCHpublication date Wed Mar 12, 2003 15:27author address author phone Report this post to the editors

You are daring to confront the SP. Fire and Damnation could rain down on your head.

Have you ever been dumped by a member of Militant or the 'Socialist' Party? Doesn't matter. Thats what they will say anyway.

Oh, by the way, you are also lying and delusional.

author by Sylvia Pankhurst - Anarchist Federationpublication date Wed Mar 12, 2003 17:37author address author phone Report this post to the editors

"Calling me a 'liar' when you are not even willing to put your name behind your claims is even more damaging,"

Well you know who I am and you know why I'm publishing anon., and someone is lying because that was *not* the agreed plan.

"Secondly I saw you running around with a megaphone, why didn't you use it?"

It was broken when I got it back.


"If you disagreed with what was going on why didn't you try and get a delegates meeting together?"

I did attempt to continue the action - afterwards I was not there to do anything. We already had a delegate meeting the previous week and the views we expressed there were completly ignored on the day. A functioning democratic system means that people with essential resources (e.g. megaphones) put those at the disposal of what has been agreed through a democratic process irrespective of their own particular views.

Hence the above report...and the above interpretation, near universal in these parts, will continued to be expressed, especially while March 1st is being claimed as a great victory.

Related Link: http://www.afireland.cjb.net
author by Andrewpublication date Wed Mar 12, 2003 17:53author address author phone Report this post to the editors

So why didn't you ask to use one of the working megaphones. Why in fact didn't you do anything other then running around and shouting at people, and then walking off when they tried to talk to you? Why didn't you object to the Dublin plans posted to the GNAW list a couple of days before the protest? There were shit loads of opportunities to raise objections, the fact is you CHOOSE not to make use of any of them.

Frankly this attempt to invent a conspiracy is daft and very destructive. Napoleon I think said 'A battle plan never survives first contact with the enemy'. Rather then looking for someone to blame I suggest you look for ways to make sure we are better organised next time.

author by Gurrierpublication date Wed Mar 12, 2003 18:39author address author phone Report this post to the editors

From talking to people since the action it is clear that the GNAW action found itself in a position that nobody had quite anticipated. The various plan B's that had been touted were premised on a slightly different situation turning out. When the standoff occurred there were at least three distinct plan b's being proposed - in the absence of any proper delegate structure for democratically deciding what to do, the few delelgates who had been appointed took the decisions. In the absence of another method of making a decision they had little choice. What we can say is that the parts of the plan that were clearly agreed in advance were succesful and the fall back plans were not widely enough known and clearly enough understood for them to work, especially given the unexpected situation.

I think, in terms of tactics, the lesson for the future is that beyond the well-understood primary plan, there is needed a clear and unambiguous consultation and decision making mechanism for dealing with the 'first contact with the enemy'.

There is no point bickering about it, there were some pluses and some minuses in the action but it was a big advance on everything that had come before and signals a positive learning curve. The thing to do now is to make sure in future that democratic decision making structures are put in place to both avoid this type of confusion in future and also to ensure that delegates views do express the views of the various groups and that they don't exceed their mandates.

AF member - it would be MUCH more constructive to be proposing practical ways for managing these situations in the future than looking for people to blame. Even if some people were at fault, you should recognise that we are all coming from the same place and are quite genuine in what we're doing. Affinity groups are not an answer in themselves since the large majority of people who turn up, turn up for the protest itself and have not been involved in the organisation. I'd doubt that most have a clue what an affinity group is.

author by Phuq Heddpublication date Wed Mar 12, 2003 19:30author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I understand your frustration and disappointment, but I don't think that anyone tried to impose their will or that there's a deliberate attempt to sideline your view. I think your point about the structural problem is valid, so the thing now is to try and fix it. It wasn't quite a "tyranny of structurelessness" though, and I don't think that does justice to the attempts made on the day to sort things out fairly.

Your input and decision-making are invaluable in this process and I'd urge you to try and suggest a way of avoiding the problems that this protest had. Note, this is one of the first times something like this has been tried in recent Irish protest history, so it's important that we acknowledge the mistakes and the communication problems.

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