Protesters demand return of possessions


OCCUPY DAME Street campaigners, whose encampment outside the Central Bank was dismantled by gardaí in the early hours of yesterday, protested outside Pearse Street Garda station in Dublin last night.

There were angry scenes outside the city centre station when about 70 protesters sought the return of belongings confiscated in the early morning raid.

The camp was set up last October as part of the global anti-capitalist Occupy movement.

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

Up to 100 gardaí were involved in the operation. One person was arrested but later released without charge. The area was cleared and then cleaned by council workers.

The campaigners held a general assembly at 6pm yesterday, when some 50 members of the public gathered outside the Central Bank to support the group.

One of the protesters, Steven Bennett, read a statement which said: “Last night the plaza was cordoned off by upwards of 100 garda , while the Occupy Dame Street camp was destroyed and up to 15 protesters forcibly removed from their camps and prevented from retrieving their belongings, and 12 sleeping huts were broken up by construction equipment and carried away in lorries.”

Following the meeting, a group of protesters walked to Pearse Street Garda station, where they held a protest to demand the return of belongings, which they said included personal items such as phones, laptops and information on supporters of the group.

There were some scuffles between protesters and gardaí.

One of the group, Jim McLean, said as the protesters approached the station, gardaí had employed “kettling procedures”.

“There was a big line of them. We basically went up to them and said we have a constitutional right to access public buildings . . . One of the guards . . . grabbed , he just chucked them into all those bikes you see lined up there,” he said, adding that three members of the group – two girls and a man – had been injured.

A 15-year-old girl, who claimed 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. They later rejoined the protest.

Three members of the group entered the Garda station seeking the return of the protesters’ belongings; however no agreement was reached and the protesters disbanded just before 9pm.

Local traders welcomed the dismantling of the camp, saying it had kept business from the area.

The move to demolish the camp came after a request from gardaí to remove it ahead of St Patrick’s Day had been refused.

Last month Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan had said so long as no one was harmed or put in danger by the protesters’ presence, the bank had no intention of having them dislodged.

However, a spokeswoman for the bank confirmed to The Irish Timesyesterday it had asked gardaí to move the campaigners.

She said: “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.”

The Occupy movement members plan to hold an assembly at 6pm each day at the Central Bank site to maintain the movement.

We would like to rebuild the camp at the Central Bank after St Patrick’s Day and move the movement to other areas,” said protester Rob Dunlop.