Protests, marches and conspiracy theories being promoted on online chat rooms and lesser-known messaging apps
‘Get off the computers and onto the streets’, was the rallying cry for a Facebook group called RiseUp Éireann to advertise Saturday’s anti-lockdown protest which descended into violence.
The message, with floating shamrocks and Celtic emblems, written in green, white, and orange, called on “everyone on this island with freedom in their hearts” to “unite the tribes” in a “stand for freedom”.
Uniting the tribes was a message to the many groups against vaccines, masks and lockdowns to come together in numbers and make a collective point.
The message advertised music, speakers and a walk.
The group describes itself as a conscious “CommUnity of Realists, on a quest seeking Truth”, to navigate what it says are the current draconian restrictions that are being experienced on a worldwide scale.
It also says it intends to use peaceful methods to express its voice, and as a non-political and non-religious group it does not promote violence.
Yet after the protests the group posted a message on its Facebook page saying: “What an amazing day today. Great atmosphere. Ireland wants what’s rightfully ours and that’s our freedom.”
Another post read: “Electric day today in Dublin today. They closed up our public park Stephens Green. Everyone just took it to the streets instead. Ireland rose up! The greatest awakening is here and it’s not going away.”
The disparate number of small groups, who communicate mainly through social media and online messaging forums, have a number of different grievances centred around the Covid restrictions.
This led to mixed messages, with some posters railing against vaccines, and others resisting travel restrictions and the closure of workplaces. Others seemed to specifically target RTÉ as the national broadcaster, and accused it of being a mouthpiece of the Government.
Another group that advertised and posted online messages about the protest was Yellow Vest Ireland, which describes itself as a grassroots movement against the disproportionate burden of the Government’s tax and policies that are failing the citizens of Ireland.
It posted videos of the protest saying gardaí had used batons on “protestors and passers-by”. There appears to be no evidence that passers-by were targeted with batons.
An Instagram account called newsforallireland also promoted the protest. It’s online information says it posts “news and updates of the corruption in Ireland and worldwide”.
A lot of the communication promoting conspiracy theories and flagging protests and marches is happening on online chat rooms and lesser-known or established online messaging services such as Telegram.
A group called The Great Reopening is on Telegram and the protest was heavily promoted in its platforms.
Garda Commissioner Drew Harris yesterday had to clarify remarks he had made on Saturday that groups from the “far right and far left” were involved in the protests.
“The vast majority of those who took part belong to a number of factions including anti-vaccine, anti-mask and anti-lockdown protestors, far right groups, and those intent on trouble and disorder,” he said.
“Despite initial indications, following further investigation, there is no corroborated evidence of extreme left factions being involved,” he said.
An Garda Síochána regards “extreme left factions and groups” as those who are intent on using violence for political means.
Speaking about the types of groups involved in the protest, Mr Harris said it was a protest that sits outside the normal behaviours of society.
“These are not mainstream groups, the great majority of our society are compliant with the regulations and are living within these regulations in order to suppress Covid-19,” he said.
Gardaí are now working on intelligence that another march or protest is being planned for St Patrick’s Day.
“In many ways Saturday was a dry-run for a future event, and the organisers were trying out a few tactics and seeing what the garda response was,” said a senior security source.