Tuesday 26 March 2019

'This is not a peaceful protest' - TD slams 'practical workshop' organised by housing activists

  • Housing activists host 'practical training session' workshop on how to occupy empty buildings
  • 'Take Back The City' group will host workshop in occupied building currently at centre of High Court proceedings 
  • 'It's time for the movement to grow' - activist group
  • 'This is concerning... this is not a peaceful protest' - Noel Rock TD
Protester in the occupied building in Belvedere Place.
Photo: Tony Gavin
Protester in the occupied building in Belvedere Place. Photo: Tony Gavin
Denise Calnan

Denise Calnan

A Fine Gael TD has described a 'practical training session' by housing activists on how to occupy empty buildings as "concerning".

The 'Take Back The City' group, which recently hit headlines from their property occupations in Dublin's north inner city, said they will be teaching the skills for activists "to get crackn on [sic]".

The three-hour workshop, which will be held tomorrow evening, is called 'Occupation Training'.

It includes two lessons, 'Planning and Defending an Occupation' and 'Anti-Eviction Defense and Community Mobilising [sic]'.

PROTEST: Campaigners outside the previously occupied building in North Frederick Street. Photo: Tony Gavin
PROTEST: Campaigners outside the previously occupied building in North Frederick Street. Photo: Tony Gavin

Fine Gael TD for Dublin North West Noel Rock said this behaviour is "not a peaceful protest".

"I think it is concerning that the title of these classes sound so militaristic," Deputy Rock said.

"I respect the people's plan to protest peacefully, but this is designed for people to break the law. This isn't a peaceful protest."

The TD said he was also concerned about the possibility of a "false positive" in the occupancy protests.

"Three months ago there was a similar sort of protest when posters reading 'Shame On You, This Could Be A Home' were being pasted onto properties believed to be empty," he continued.

"I'm concerned about the possibility of false positives. I received two complaints from constituents, elderly people who couldn't afford to keep the front of their home in a certain way, they were embarrassed frankly because the posters were pasted on to their front doors and walls.

"They were glued on and quite difficult to remove.

"False positives can happen. I've seen it in that certain campaign and I would be afraid the same could happen here, that a property may be understood to be empty but it could be that the owners are on holiday, or the front of the house may look derelict."

He continued; "There is a process in place for dealing with derelict properties. I understand the depth of passion on the issue, the depth of feeling, but that being said, protests should take place within the boundaries and scope of the law.

"There are mechanisms in place. I know they can be slow and frustrating, but it can be done and it has been done.

"I urge people to protest, but to take the lawful approach," he added. 

The event is being hosted in a Dublin city centre property that is currently at the centre of a legal battle.

A court heard on Friday that squatters in the four-storey Georgian building are to be served with legal proceedings demanding they leave and deliver up "vacant possession" to the owner.

Barrister Padraig D Lyons told the High Court that a group had forcibly entered the building on Belvedere Place on September 8 and were still trespassing.

The event, which is listed on their official Facebook page, reads; "At Take Back The City - Dublin we've been successfully occupying buildings now for 39 days - almost 6 weeks!

"In the last few weeks we've seen solidarity actions and rallies in Waterford, Cork & Galway. It's time for the movement to grow.

"This is why we're running a training session so people can learn from our experience, share their own experiences, and plan for the coming months."

They added; "We will be doing practical sessions on Tuesday, giving you and your groups the skills to get crackn on [sic]."

One comment under the event asks if the event can be streamed for those who cannot make it to the capital.

A spokesperson for the gardaí said they "respect and facilitate the right to peaceful and lawful protest".

"We would ask activist groups or those planning to engage in protest or demonstration activity to contact and liaise with local Gardaí. Our primary objectives surrounding public demonstrations are - to ensure the safety of the public, free movement of traffic and prevent any breaches of the peace," they said this afternoon.

"An Garda Síochána does not comment on the activities of groups involved in specific campaigns or on material published online by third parties.

"We would advise anyone with information or with concerns about those engaged in unlawful activity to report the matter to local Gardaí for investigation."

Speaking earlier this week about the policing of a protest on North Frederick Street in the capital, Commissioner Drew Harris said the objective of any operation is to "ensure the safety of the public".

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