Category: Archive

Witnesses claim gardai roughed up street protesters

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Some of the worst street violence in years rocked Dublin’s city center on Monday as gardai tackled an environmental protest group called Reclaim the Streets, which is opposed to cars in urban areas.

Witnesses said that police used excessive force in breaking up the protest on Dame Street, which, they said, was “largely peaceful,” according to the Irish Independent. There were claims that some police officers had removed their identifying badges before the protest was broken up.

Justice Minister John O’Donoghue has said that he will launch a full inquiry in to gardai actions. Eighteen protestors have been charged with assault, criminal damage and public order offenses.

There have been claims on RTE by witnesses that at least one police officer was not wearing an identity number, and TV footage showed police using batons on the protestors, who had refused a police order to disperse.

One witness, identified only as Philip, described to reporters what he had seen: “What I saw yesterday I thought an absolute disgrace. They just seemed to surround the crowd, who were standing there blowing whistles and shouting slogans, and they just charged them. They did not seem to have any coherent plan. They could not have possibly known who they were hitting, there were just batons flying everywhere,” he said.

O’Donoghue said he had no evidence the gardai had removed identification numbers prior to a baton charge. “I would regard that as highly irregular and in those circumstances there would be a situation where a complaint could be made,” he said.

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“If people are guilty of assault going beyond the norm of reasonable force, then of course they can be charged in relation to it. All I can promise is that we will ensure that there is a full report on this situation and that there is full transparency and full accountability in relation to what happened.”

A Trinity College student, Rob Sixsmith, told reporter that the police action “was definitely an overreaction.”

It is not clear yet whether the incident will have repercussions in the general election campaign that is now in full swing.

The Socialist Workers Party has called for all charges to be dropped immediately and the public release of the CCTV footage from Dame Street last night “to expose the full extent of the police actions.”

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