Thursday 14 December 2017

Two are charged following angry clashes with students

Edel Kennedy

THREE people were arrested after yesterday's student protest turned violent.

A number of people were also brought to hospital suffering head injuries after gardai drew their batons during the protest in Dublin city centre.

Three gardai were treated for injuries, one with a suspected broken nose.

Last night, gardai confirmed that two of the men in their 20s had been charged in connection with the incident -- one for criminal damage and the second man charged under the Public Order act. They will appear in court at a later date.

The third man who was arrested was cautioned and later released.

Protesters clashed with gardai during the march against plans to increase registration fees for third-level students from €1,500 to €2,500.

Up to 25,000 students from around the country took part in the march, a number of whom wore masks. Tensions rose after some of the marchers tried to make their way from Kildare St to Merrion Square -- but they were stopped by gardai in front of the Department of Finance building on Merrion Row.

"Things started getting more and more heated," said Tom Doyle, a student at Trinity College. "People started throwing eggs at the building and running at the doors."

He said the gardai formed a barrier in front of the building but things turned violent when the riot police arrived.

"They started beating people with their batons. People were being really aggressive on both sides. But some people were just sitting down and when they wouldn't move the gardai just started hitting them. One guy had a beard and they were pulling him by his beard," Mr Doyle said.

"The police were charging and their batons were flailing and people started running away," he added.

There were unconfirmed reports that one female student was knocked unconscious while a number of male students were visibly injured and bleeding.

A number of students went into the outer lobby of the Department of Finance, but a spokeswoman said there was "no security issue". She said they left shortly after entering the building.

A garda spokesman said 50 people entered the lobby but were removed a short time later by gardai.

However, Madeleine Johansson of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) said they were never asked by gardai to vacate the building.

"We were forcefully removed, with several people sustaining injuries and taken to hospital," she said.

Last night the Union of Students of Ireland (USI) denied their members had been involved in the violence.

President Gary Redmond said the occupation of the Department of Finance by a number of protesters was not representative of the USI. He said the actions of protesters engaged in a sit-down protest outside Leinster House was also not condoned by the USI.

"It was nothing to do with us. It was interest groups, one of which was in the news already this week," he said.

Irish Independent

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