Black Lives Matter protest organisers will not face prosecution

Gardaí now expect most people investigated for ‘organising an event’ will not face charges

The organisers of the Black Lives Matter protest in Dublin last summer will not face prosecution, An Garda Síochána has said. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

The organisers of the Black Lives Matter protest in Dublin last summer will not face prosecution, An Garda Síochána has said. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

The organisers of the Black Lives Matter protest in Dublin last summer, attended by thousands during a Covid-19 lockdown, will not face prosecution, An Garda Síochána has said.

Gardaí now expect that most people investigated for “organising an event” during the pandemic, which became a criminal offence, will not face charges.

Sources said the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) was reluctant to bring such charges, which carry a sanction on conviction of up to six months’ imprisonment and/or a fine of up to €2,500.

Under the rules governing events during the pandemic, it has been a criminal offence to organise many events but not to attend.

Gardaí opened a number of criminal investigations into a range of events, including a retirement party at RTÉ’s Donnybrook campus last November, the Black Lives Matter protest in Dublin last June, an Oireachtas Golf Society event in Clifden, Co Galway, last August and a number of anti-lockdown protests.

It emerged two weeks ago that no criminal charges would be pursued against the organisers of the RTÉ event.

However, criminal charges are being taken against several people over the Oireachtas Golf Society event and in other cases directions are awaited from the DPP.

The Irish Times has learned the investigation into the Black Lives Matter protest has concluded and the organisers will not face criminal prosecution.

‘Risk to life’

The protest is believed to be the largest event held in the State since the pandemic began and was criticised by chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan, who said it “posed a risk to life”. It took place in the wake of the murder of George Floyd by a police officer in the US and attracted a crowd of several thousand, with participants marching from O’Connell Street to the US embassy in Ballsbridge.

Garda sources said it had become clear from DPP directions, after investigations into several event organisers, that charges would only arise in very specific cases.

They believed events that were spontaneous, or where only a small gathering was expected but numbers snowballed, would not result in charges. While the DPP does not explain its decisions on cases, feedback to Garda members has suggested charges would only arise in those cases where it was clear that a specific event was formally planned and took place.

“You are talking about events where places may have been prepared to host them; PA systems put in place or premises booked for an event. It seems they are the clearer cut cases,” said one source.

He added that events with less formal planning but that “took on a life of their own” would likely not result in prosecutions.

Garda response

In response to queries about the Black Lives Matter protest, Garda headquarters confirmed the DPP had directed that no prosecution would follow.

While Dublin GAA footballers will also not face sanction over a training session organised in north Dublin last month, gardaí pointed out that was never a criminal matter.

Organising a sports event was against public health guidelines at the time but was never a penal matter or a crime in the way organising other events has been, the sources confirmed.