'Occupy' supporters hold protest over camp removal


About 70 Occupy Dame street campaigners, whose camp outside the Central Bank was dismantled by gardaí in the early hours of the morning, took part in a protest outside Pearse Street Garda station this evening.

There were angry scenes between protesters and gardaí outside the Dublin city-centre station but the protesters disbanded shortly before 9pm.

One woman, who claims to have been pushed by gardaí, was treated by an ambulance crew at the scene while one man appeared to have sustained a cut to the head. A Garda spokesman had no comment on the claims.

The protesters, some wearing Irish flags, others carrying signs, chanted “whose streets, our streets” and “We are the 99 per cent” and engaged in sit-down protests near the garda station. Some streets close to the station were closed as the protest took place.

Three members of the group - Steven Bennett, Saoirse Bennet and Liam Mac an Bháird - entered the Garda station to negotiate the return of the protesters' belongings.

The Occupy Dame Street encampment was established last October as part of the global anti-capitalist 'Occupy' movement.

Gardaí moved in on the camp at 3.30am and dismantled and removed a number of structures and tents on the site as protesters were held back.

As many as 100 gardaí were involved in the operation, and Dame Street was cordoned off from Trinity College to George's Street. The area was cleared and then cleaned by council workers.

While a small handful of protesters remained after this morning’s eviction, numbers swelled to more than a dozen following a message to reorganise sent out by social media.

At around noon, protesters hurriedly attempted to set up a tent on the site of the former encampment despite the garda presence.

Within moments, additional gardaí were called in and two protestors were forcibly removed from the tent. No arrests were made and the tent was taken to a nearby garda vehicle.

A general assembly meeting was set for 6 pm tonight on the site of the former camp, an organiser of the Occupy movement said.

“They may have destroyed the camp, but they haven’t destroyed the movement,” said Steven Bennett.

“It appears the guards used the power of the Housing Act 2002 which allows them to remove temporary residences. An obvious solution to that is having a camp that is not actually a residence, if we can maintain it in shifts,” he added.

Occupiers will be also meeting with legal representatives later today to assess how to best move forward.

A garda spokesman said the force was obliged to move the camp for health and safety to ahead of the St Patrick's Day parade, but it “remains to be seen what happens in the future”.

A spokeswoman for the Central Bank confirmed it had asked Gardaí to move the campaigners.

“Following serious health and safety and public order concerns raised with the bank by an Garda Síochána, notably in relation to the forthcoming St Patrick’s Day events, the bank confirms that it requested the Garda to peacefully remove the occupiers and the encampment from the Central Bank plaza.”

She added the bank will “continue to take whatever advice is forthcoming from the garda in terms of the continued safe use of the plaza.”

Jim McLean, who was sleeping in the camp this morning, said he heard loud banging outside his shack and when he got up to check there were “guards everywhere ripping the shacks apart”.

Mr McClean said the 10 protesters in the camp at the time received no warning it was to be dismantled. He said protesters “resisted peacefully” and when gardaí were questioned on the legality of the move they produced a printout of the 2002 Housing Act.

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