Attempts to “intimidate”, “silence” or “marginalise” the anti-water charges movement with arrests and court summonses will not work, up to 2,000 protestors in Dublin were told on Saturday.
Paul Murphy TD (Socialist Party) is one of over 20 people facing charges related to an incident last November in which the Tánaiste Joan Burton, was trapped in her car for two hours. The incident occurred during an anti-water charges protest in the Jobstown area of west Tallaght.
Mr Murphy told protestors that political policing of working class movements was “not the exception but the rule” and that the summonses, issued to teenagers and adults last week, showed the extent to which political policing was now “laid bare”.
He pointed also to the charging this week of 13 people in the Crumlin area for obstructing the installation of water meters, among them Joan Collins TD (United Left); to the Garda decision this month to refuse the Anti-Austerity Alliance a permit to fundraise in the Jobstown area; to the dawn arrests of anti-water charges campaigners in February, and, to the leaking to the media of Garda plans to charge those involved in the Jobstown incident.
The majority are charged with false imprisonment, with some also facing public disorder and criminal damage charges. Those teenagers charged are due to appear at the children’s court on October 29th with the others due in the circuit court on November 2nd.
Saturday’s protest, called on Monday, was led by seven people carrying a wide banner saying “Support the Jobstown 23. Drop the charges”.
Up to 2,000 people marched the two kilometres from the Central Bank to the Criminal Courts of Justice, demonstrating about what they described as political policing of the anti-water charges movement.
At a rally outside the Central Bank, one of those facing charges, Scott Masterson, said Ms Burton had presided over cuts to public services and the implementation of austerity which had harshly affected working class communities, including Jobstown.
“I’m calling for criminal charges to be brought for the false imprisonment of 376,000 people held in the prison of poverty. I’m calling for charges to be brought against those who falsely imprison 216,000 children in poverty. I’m calling for charges against those who cause tens of thousands of workers to remain trapped in low-paid, insecure work and I’d like to call for charges for the false imprisonment of hundreds of asylum seekers in direct provision.”
Ruth Coppinger, TD, said the Anti-Austerity Alliance, of which she is a member, had been "singled out for attack" by the political and legal systems.
“Legislation is being used to attack the elected representatives of the working class. We fully intend to challenge this all the way in the courts,” she said.
Carrying placards and banners, with such slogans as, ‘Jobstown Innocent, Burton Guilty’, ‘Stop political policing now’ and ‘Water is a human right’ the protestors chanted, “One, two, three, four, Stop the banging on the door. Two, four, six, eight, protect the right to demonstrate” and “Burton in your ivory tower, this is called people power”.
There was a low-key Garda presence on the ground, while the Garda helicopter flew overhead during much of the march along the quays.
At the courts building, further speakers included Fiona Byrne from Jobstown, Seán Crowe, TD (Sinn Féin), Clare Daly TD (Independent) and Mr Murphy.
John Lyons, People Before Profit Dublin city councillor, Des Fagan of the Civil and Public Services Union and Joan Collins TD spoke at the Central Bank.
Several speakers referred to the homelessness crisis, to which they said Ms Burton had contributed by refusing to increase rent supplement, and also to her opening of a new food bank in Dublin during the week.
Mr Murphy said the problem in Ireland was not civil disobedience, but civil obedience. However, he said, "the majority of people in this country are quietly but effectively engaging in... civil disobedience" by not paying water charges.
He called for a strong show “of political solidarity” at the courts on October 29th and November 2nd, before quoting James Connolly.
“If you strike at, imprison or kill us, out of our prisons or our graves we will still evoke a spirit that will thwart you and may happ, raise a force that will destroy you. We defy you. Do your worst,” he said to loud cheers and applause.