Tuesday 21 November 2017

'Occupy' street protest turns ugly

Luke Byrne, Tom Brady and Mark Hilliard

SCUFFLES broke out between gardai and members of the 'Occupy Dame Street' movement last night after an unplanned protest march turned ugly.

There were heated scenes when protesters made an impromptu march from the site of their former Central Bank camp in Dublin city, to Pearse Street garda station.

The protest was called after a garda decision to close down the camp in the early hours of yesterday morning.

At 7pm a group of around 50 protesters marched from Dame Street to Pearse Street.

The unplanned decision was taken after one of the protesters suggested they demand the return of items taken from the camp, such as donation money, sleeping bags and documents.


Along the way the group blocked sections of the road by sitting down and refusing to move. When they reached the garda station, they were met by a wall of officers who refused to let them past.

There were scuffles when a small number of protesters tried to confront gardai. One protester was brought away in an ambulance following the violence while others sustained minor injuries.

In one incident, a garda was seen to throw a teenage girl towards a wall.

However, the violence did not escalate past a few isolated incidents and quickly subsided.

Earlier in the day, what seemed like a token attempt to erect a tent on the plaza just before midday was quickly snuffed out by gardai.

Back-up officers arrived and, after tearing the tent from protesters' hands, maintained a visible presence in the plaza.

Gardai are to mount regular patrols around the Central Bank plaza in a bid to prevent protesters erecting another camp there.

A large force of gardai dismantled the camp, which had been on the plaza since October, in an early-morning operation and removed 13 protesters.

Gardai said last night that, apart from being an illegal structure on private property, the camp constituted a serious health and hygiene hazard.

Gardai had earlier appealed to the protesters to remove the camp voluntarily before St Patrick's Day when the parade is due to pass along Dame Street.

The occupation was established in support for similar demonstrations in other world capitals.

But most of those have since been dismantled and last week the 'Occupy London' group was evicted from outside St Paul's Cathedral following a High Court order.

A letter delivered by gardai to the group made clear that the request was being made in the context of the parade, which attracts huge numbers of visitors.

After the demonstrators had rejected the plea, senior gardai decided to evict them.

A cordon was set up around the area as a group of officers from Pearse Street moved in quickly to remove the occupants of the camp before they could chain themselves to heavy fixtures.

The Central Bank said yesterday that because of serious health and safety and public-order concerns, which had been raised with the bank by the garda, it had requested the gardai to peacefully remove the occupiers.

But protesters said the removal of the camp did not mean the end of the 'Occupy' movement. They said last night that they would move on to the site again as soon as possible.

Irish Independent

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