Witnesses accuse gardai of using excessive force


A number of witnesses and participants in Monday's Reclaim the Streets rally in Dublin have alleged that gardaí used excessive force in dealing with protesters.

Speaking to The Irish Times yesterday, fifth-year student Oisín Breen (17), from Rathfarnham, Dublin, claimed that he was set upon by gardaí a number of times and needed six stitches in his head after gardaí beat him up on a corner of Dame Street in the city-centre.

He said that he was running away from a baton-wielding garda when he came across the other policemen.

"I was shouting 'don't hit me, don't hit me'," he said. "There were four gardaí in yellow and one in blue. They were hitting me and kicking me . . . I was dragged away by a guy in dreadlocks . . . I was bleeding all over the street."

Mr Breen, who heard about the Reclaim the Streets rally from friends, described the events as "savage" and "a massacre". He added: "They definitely used excessive force, but I don't see that there is anything I can do about it."

His mother, Ms Marie Breen, said she became convinced of her son's story when she went to St James's Hospital and listened to other young people with similar experiences.

"I still feel very angry and put out," she said. "When I grew up, the gardaí were heroes."

She said that the Garda treatment of protesters "was terribly brutal no matter how cheeky they were - two grown men do not hold a teenager while another one beats them".

Peter Sweetman, of Friends of the Irish Environment, said that he witnessed two incidents of police brutality. "As the march was leaving Burgh Quay, a man who was walking home stepped between two police cars and was attacked by police," he said.

The second incident occurred later as dozens of protesters were assembled outside Pearse Street Garda station, waiting for people who had been detained. "The police had everyone corralled on the traffic island at College Green," he said. "One girl put her toe on to the road and a guard kicked the legs from underneath her. She went down on the road and the guard kicked her again."

People yesterday rang RTÉ radio programmes throughout the day, describing ugly scenes.

One protestr, Marianne, told Joe Duffy's Liveline programme how she was being pushed backwards by gardaí striking her with batons. "I told them I can't move any further back . . . but they kept pushing me and pushing me," she said, adding that some gardaí were wearing jackets without identifying numbers.

Kathy was driving on Dame Street when she saw a group of gardaí who she said appeared to be "spoiling for a fight".

"They just came from every corner," she said, adding that the crowd of protesters was colourful and did not seem menacing.

Mr Aidan O'Brien, from indymedia.ie, who was filmimg the rally, said that his camera was taken from him and its battery was removed.

Most of the callers were complaining about the brutality of gardaí, but John, a taxi-driver, phoned to say that one of the demonstrators had jumped on the bonnet of his car, causing damage. "They were causing mayhem," he said.