There was a large and aggressive Garda presence at the Stephen’s Green headquarters of the bank from early this morning after four éirígí activists gained access to a roof and unveiled a banner proclaiming ‘People of Ireland, Rise Up’.
Gardai sealed off the area around the bank and despite the completely peaceful nature of the protest, later in the morning Garda public order units (more commonly known as the Riot Squad) arrived in large numbers to forcibly remove, arrest and assault the four activists.
On the ground demonstrators were also attacked by Gardai with three other activists being arrested and assaulted. A number of those arrested suffered injuries during the Garda assault and had to receive treatment from a doctor in Pearse Street Garda Barracks. The seven were later charged with “public order offences”, with six released on bail and the seventh remanded in custody.
Despite the attempt at intimidation, Saturday's main protest went ahead as planned at 2pm, with around 150 people turning up to demand an end to the bank bailout, NAMA and the slashing of public services. As the scheduled speaker, Daithí Mac An Mhaistír, was among those arrested, Brian Leeson gave the main oration. General Secretary of éirígí Breandan MacCionnaith also addressed the crowd.
During the demonstration, a large effigy of former Anglo Irish Bank chief executive Seán Fitzpatrick was burned.
Leeson said: “Saturday's events proved the point that the institutions of this state act only in the interest of the bankers, developers and the entire business class. However, they also demonstrated that working class people are not powerless in the face of the economic onslaught being waged by right-wing politicians and the wealthy. The Garda’s aim – to prevent the demonstration going ahead – was not achieved."
Sligo éirígí activist Gerry Casey has echoed Leeson's comments claiming that Saturdays events were a deliberate attempt by the state to stamp out protests and deter people from taking to the streets.
Casey said: “The arrests and assaults by Gardai were a deliberate attempt by the state to intimidate those engaged in peaceful protest. Their aim is to deter and scare people that are angry at NAMA, the bank bail outs and the savage cutbacks in income and public services from taking to the streets and protesting against making unemployed and working people pay for the greed of the wealthy political and business class.”
He added: “The contrast is stark between the swiftness and deployment of state and Garda resources to arrest and assault peaceful protesters, with the complete lack of action taken by that same police force against the bankers, developers and politicians that led us into the the economic wasteland we are currently in. If they spent a tiny fraction of the time, effort and resources they put into Saturdays arrests and assaults investigating the going ons of the wealthy elite at Anglo Irish Bank and other financial insitutions, maybe the current economic catastrophe could have been avoided.”
“éirígí make no apology for engaging in peaceful civil disobedience as part of the fightback against the economic onslaught being waged against unemployed and working people by right wing politicians and the wealthy. We will continue to do so and we would urge all trade unions, political organisations and individuals opposed to the bank bailouts and the cutbacks to engage in similar activities.”
Casey concluded: “This administration and its anti-worker agenda will not be defeated by asking Fianna Fáil and the Greens nicely or by cosy negotiations between the ICTU leadership and government representatives. It will only be defeated by persistent, direct and meaningful action on the streets and in the workplace. The vicious and unprovoked activities of the Gardai on Saturday underlines that the state will do whatever it takes, including breaking their own laws, to protect the status quo and the interests of the wealthy political and business elite.”
To view more photos from Saturdays demonstration click here