Gardaí ask Occupy protesters to move from outside bank

Sat, Mar 10, 2012, 00:00

OCCUPY DAME Street protesters in Dublin who had regrouped were asked by the Garda to move from outside the Central Bank last night.


Thirty members of the group, some wearing Tricolours, had gathered in what they called a “general assembly” to discuss the future of the Occupy Dame Street movement after gardaí had removed their camp during the week.

The protesters stood inside a chalk circle drawn earlier by members of the group with the words “Free Éire” and symbols of the figure of eight inside it.

The group says it plans to continue to have a daily presence at the Central Bank, but will not sleep there at night. It plans to use the space as a “speakers’ corner” on Saturdays.

“It will be ‘occupy free speech’ – everyone can speak without discrimination, left and right, the only ban will be on incitement to hatred,” said group member Claire Leonard. The group plans to return to the site daily at 6.30pm to discuss the future.

Spokesman Terence Barry said the group would hold major demonstrations throughout the year, and Occupy Belfast campaigners would travel to Dublin today.

Gardaí asked the group to move so the ground could be cleaned by a cleaning contractor waiting in a van on site. The protesters sat on the ground inside the circle and refused to move, chanting: “This is what democracy looks like,” and “All day, all week, occupy Dame Street.”

The discussion was allowed to continue and the group voted, with a show of hands waving in unison, to pass a motion within the group to rename the space outside the Central Bank from “central plaza” to “speakers’ corner”.

Meanwhile, Galway campaigners have questioned the legal basis for Galway City Council’s request that the camp vacate its Eyre Square location.

The council has warned of “appropriate legal action” if the camp does not comply with the request, received just after the Occupy Dame Street camp in Dublin was demolished early on Thursday.

The Galway camp has between 20 and 50 regular supporters, with small numbers staying at night – but it was fully occupied on Thursday night after the city council letter, said Occupy Galway spokesman John Walsh.

The city council cited “serious health and safety concerns” for its request, the first such formal move against the Galway camp since it was established five months ago.

The Occupy camp spokesman said, however, the camp was not breaking any law as it was on public property, and had actually requested a health and safety inspection earlier this year.

Set up on October 15th last, the camp moved from an original location at the top of Eyre Square to the northeast corner to facilitate the Christmas market, and the city council had removed bicycle racks to accommodate this, he said. “We took this as tacit acceptance of our location.”

Independent councillor Terry O’Flaherty and Fine Gael councillor Pádraig Conneely have both called this week for the camp to be moved. “The camp has made its point, and we have St Patrick’s Day and the Volvo Ocean Race coming up, and we need to get the square back,” Cllr O’Flaherty said yesterday.

Cork City Council is planning to dismantle a camp at the South Mall. The majority of protesters have left the site, but a large wooden structure remains.

In Waterford, two teenagers who were among the last residents of the Occupy camp in the city were brought home by gardaí to their parents after the camp was cleared early yesterday.

Protesters taking part in the campaign in Waterford city had split, and the Occupy camp was mostly unoccupied in recent weeks.