Protesters say they plan to stay despite weather


“LIBERTY PLAZA” is written on a piece of cardboard that is currently propped up on the pavement outside the Central Bank on Dublin’s Dame Street. Beyond the cardboard sign is the plaza, an open area usually busy with skateboarders and pedestrians, and now an ever-changing tight configuration of tents, ropes and pallets.

Yesterday was the 12th day of the “Occupy Dame Street” protest. Ever since what’s become known as “Occupy Wall Street” began in New York last month, similar demonstrations have been organised around the world. The movement began on September 17th with some 2,000 people marching through Lower Manhattan to protest against bank bailouts and corporate power. About 150 of them remained after the march to camp out in Zuccotti Park, which they have renamed “Liberty Square”.

At Dame Street yesterday, some 40 people were trying to put their encampment back together after Monday’s gales and heavy rain. Cars, taxis and trucks frequently beeped their horns as they passed. “We were chasing tents down the street yesterday,” one protester explained. “We’re still drying off clothes and sleeping bags.”

Unlike their New York counterparts who are camped in a park, those in Dublin are in a concrete plaza, where nothing can be staked down. Thus the tents are tied together with a cobweb of orange rope.

Some of the protesters were examining the morning’s donations from the public, which included a bag of breakfast rolls, a crate of apples, and a box of romantic novels, including books by Maeve Binchy and Catherine Cookson. “It’s a really poor library,” one man grumbled, rummaging in the box.

Many other items at the camp have been donated by members of the public, including sleeping bags, food, money, a couch which was occupied by smokers, and a small generator that powers their electricity source. Various pubs have been allowing them to use their toilets, and it appears most people go home from time to time to shower and get clean clothes. A giant bottle of sanitiser dominated a makeshift table.

Gardaí have, they report, left them alone. “I think the guards are hoping the weather will drive us out in the end, but it won’t,” a man wearing a brown fleece jacket declared.

The group has a “media team” that numbers between six and 20, who share a mobile phone that is designated for calls with the press, and who post tweets and videos, update a Facebook page and contribute to blogs.

Tom, the media person who had the phone yesterday morning, declined to give his surname, as did everyone else The Irish Times spoke to. After al-Jazeera visited on Monday, when people did go on the record, a decision subsequently was made to stop revealing their names. Why?

“None of us are spokespeople,” Tom explained. “We simply represent the 99 per cent who are protesting against the greed of the 1 per cent.” Tom, who hadn’t spent a night under canvas himself, is a student on a year off from college.

So who are the floating population of some 100 people who have been here for almost a fortnight? A girl with a black woollen hat explained they ranged in age between 20 and 60, and that the numbers were growing all the time.

“We’re still here and I can’t believe it,” declared another woman, Monica, who is from the Basque region in Spain. Each evening she goes to teach a Spanish class, but she’s slept at Dame Street for six nights. In common with everyone else, she was clear about wanting to protest against the IMF takeover of Ireland’s finances, but vague as to what the group hopes to achieve. “We just want to raise awareness,” she offered.