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Plans for Dublin Black Lives Matter protest to go ahead despite cancellation of other events

  • One protest at the US Embassy in Dublin is planning to go ahead, while another one has been cancelled
  • Simon Harris expresses fears that protests will breach social distancing rules
  • Tánaiste Simon Coveney said he is concerned by the violent response of some US police forces

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A protester holds up a "Black Lives Matter" sign at a rally following the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., May 31, 2020. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

A protester holds up a "Black Lives Matter" sign at a rally following the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., May 31, 2020. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

People hold banners in Hyde Park during a "Black Lives Matter" protest following the death of George Floyd who died in police custody in Minneapolis, London, Britain, June 3, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

People hold banners in Hyde Park during a "Black Lives Matter" protest following the death of George Floyd who died in police custody in Minneapolis, London, Britain, June 3, 2020. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

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A protester holds up a "Black Lives Matter" sign at a rally following the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., May 31, 2020. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

An anti-racism protest sparked by the death of George Floyd in the US is still going ahead at the US embassy in Dublin on Saturday despite the cancellation of another protest over “potential fears of prosecution.”

Three organisations representing migrants, asylum-seekers and the Black community in Ireland said they still intend to hold a ‘social-distancing’ protest outside the embassy in Ballsbridge on Saturday afternoon over the killing of George Floyd by police in the American city of Minneapolis on May 25 that has sparked mass riots in more than 40 cities across the US.

Black Pride Ireland, The Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland (MASI) and Migrants and Ethnic-minorities for Reproductive Justice - (MERJ) announced on Twitter today that they still intend to hold their own protest as long as protesters abide by the Covid-19 restrictions and do no travel more than 5kms from their homes to take part.

They also insist that protesters abide by social distancing and “refrain from bringing political party flags, organisational paraphernalia, handing out flyers that are not related to Black Lives Matter.”

“It is not the time for you to recruit or gain members in any way. That is not solidarity, you are taking space from Black people,” they wrote.

“Black Lives Matter was a hashtag started in the US by three black women to highlight the disproportionate murders of Black lives. Anti-Blackness is global and here in Ireland we see it occur in the way we police crime and incarcerate asylum seekers in Direct Provision.”

The move comes after thousands of mostly young participants who took part in last Saturday’s “Black Lives Matter Solidarity Protest” were strongly criticised by gardai and Government officials for ignoring social distancing and gathering in mass groups despite the ongoing pandemic.

The unnamed organisers of the protest announced on Twitter yesterday that they won’t hold a similar rally outside the US embassy on June 8 out of fear of prosecution.

“We ask that people do not attend any protests in their own interests. We will share details of an alternative digital action. An Garda Siochana have not threatened or in any way attempted to intimidate the organisers, however, a number of safety concerns and potential criminal offenses surrounding the protest were raised and we have elected to cancel with the possibility of rescheduling,” the post read.

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Health Minister Simon Harris earlier today called on the organisers of the anti-racism protests to call off events over fears it will breach social distancing rules.

The minister said last weekend’s Black Lives Matter demonstration, which saw thousands of people march through Dublin, breached Covid-19 restrictions in “quite a significant way”.

Mr Harris said the racism makes him “physically sick to his stomach” and said “any right thinking person” would be concerned about the murder of George Floyd by US police.

“It doesn’t mean we can ignore mass gathering guidelines, the reality is regardless of your cause or how just your cause is large gatherings are dangerous,” he said.

“We have to be careful, just because we support a cause doesn’t mean we have to be silent on a protest that did clearly breach guidelines,” Mr Harris said.

The minister noted that gardai are investigating the incident and said he did not want to interfere with the investigation.

Mr Harris dismissed suggestions that the non-essential travel ban should be lifted entirely rather than been increased to 20km next week.

He said he has not heard any public health expert say the restriction should be lifted.

The minister said he was concerned that people were not wearing face coverings while shopping or on public transport.

“We have been good with a lot of the measures but I think there is room for improvement on wearing face masks,” he said.

The minister said he was also concerned about the number of new coronavirus cases which arose because of close contacts between those infected.

He said the second phase of the lifting of lockdown measures strikes the right balance and said he did not think the plan should be accelerated.

Meanwhile, Tánaiste Simon Coveney has said he is concerned by the violent response of some police forces to protests taking place across the United States in recent days.

Mr Coveney signalled he was likely to speak to the country’s ambassador about the matter in the coming days.

He was speaking in the wake of days of protests across the United States following the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota last month.

The death has triggered a wave of protests across the US, including some that have turned violent. Authorities have used tear gas to disperse protesters outside the White House in recent days and there have also been numerous reports of attacks on journalists, some of whom have been arrested.

Mr Coveney said he shared the concerns raised by Fianna Fáil TD James Browne who criticised the “the brutal response to legitimate protest” by some police and state forces.

He said the overriding message of the Irish government was a "complete rejection of racism and a determination to combat racism in all its forms".

Mr Coveney said: “I think many of us are pretty disturbed and shocked by the images we're seeing coming out of the United States now for, I think, it's the eighth day in a row.”

“What everybody wants to ensure is that peaceful protest is part of any democracy, as well as the need for robust and independent journalism. Violence is not the way to bring about change here and what’s needed is leadership at a community level and at a political level.

“The undercurrent of anger and discontent that clearly has come from concerns around racism and discrimination has created a huge wave of protests, some of it violent, across US cities.”

Fianna Fáil TD Seán Fleming condemned the protests and racism and declared “black lives do matter”. His party colleague John Lahart raised concerns about what he called “paramilitary-style policing” by some US authorities, while Longford Westmeath TD Robert Troy said the response of the Trump administration was “nothing short of appalling”.

Mr Coveney said he had not yet spoken to the US ambassador to Ireland, Edward Crawford, but signalled he would.

"I wouldn't be surprised if I do speak to him in the next week or so," he told Sinn Féin TD Ruairí Ó Murchú.


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