Over 30,000 students demonstrated in Dublin on November 3rd, in what was reported to have been the largest student protest in a generation. To start, it gave a shining example of how students can pull together for a worthy cause. It was also an indication of the fierce opposition the government can expect…
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By Jennifer McShane, GCD
Over 30,000 students demonstrated in Dublin on November 3rd, in what was reported to have been the largest student protest in a generation. To start, it gave a shining example of how students can pull together for a worthy cause. It was also an indication of the fierce opposition the government can expect when attempting to do something ludicrous like double student registration fees in a climate where so many are struggling with finances.
But this day was marred by the violence that took place and many agree the real message behind the protest was replaced by the spectacle that has been front-page news since it happened.
The alleged allegations of Garda brutality has resulted in the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission receiving 28 complaints (so far) relating to the behaviour of gardaí in the protest. Though the gardaí have refused to comment on these complaints as yet, students are unwilling to let this go without making their voices heard.
Over 3,000 people have joined a Facebook page calling for a full public hearing into the Garda ?brutality? and up to 500 students marched through Dublin on Friday night in a peaceful protest against the behaviour of gardaí.
Among the complaints are claims that gardaí used ?excessive force? on peaceful protestors at the Department of Finance on Merrion Row. However, a spokesperson for the Gardaí has said that the Garda?s actions on the day were ?at all times in proportion to the situation on the ground.?
The protest was organised by two groups, Free Education for Everyone and Students in Solidarity.
Ben McCormack, part of the Students in Solidarity group, who said he had been struck by a member of the Garda public order unit last week, said last night?s peaceful march showed that those present were not in favour of violence.
?It does show that we are not here to cause trouble. We are here to make a point. The vast majority did not want violence, they wanted to make their voice heard against this brutality,? he said. ?An occupation is a legitimate form of protest and we shouldn?t have been forced out in the obscenely physical way which we were.?
Jonathan Adams of the Free Education for Everyone campaign, said students had been ?beaten off the streets by the gardaí? during last week?s protest.
But what actually happened and when? Here is a simple mini timeline of events courtesy of the Irish Times website:
2.55pm: A man not dressed in official student protest clothing with a megaphone urged the main group, gathering at Merrion Square, to come down to the Department of Finance building around the corner.
3pm: A group of about 40 entered the lobby of the building. Garda removed close to half of these and were then forced to barricade in the remaining 20. A group of several hundred now gathered outside the building, with a line of gardaí at the entrance between them and the protesters trapped inside. A brick was thrown at the wall of the building, along with bottles, cans and signs at the gardaí.
3.05pm: A Garda horseback unit and three vans arrived outside the building, dividing the group outside in half. The protesters began a sit-down protest in front of the horseback unit.
3.10pm: Gardaí in full riot gear arrived and took up position between the other gardaí and protesters. The gardaí began removing protesters they had previously trapped in the lobby. There were physical altercations between them and a female garda was struck. Some of the protesters exited with evidence of a beating on their faces.
3.15pm: The last protester left inside was brought out. The riot squad pushed forward against the crowd and created some space around the entrance.
3.15-3.35pm: Slowly the protesters were moved back under continuing pressure. One garda on horseback was seen bleeding from the lip.
3.35pm: Riot police charged, followed by the unit on horseback, and pushed the entire crowd back to a spot adjacent to the Shelbourne Hotel. Several gardaí with dogs were also present.
3.40pm: There was another riot police charge along with the unit on horseback, which drove the protest back to a spot beside Anglo Irish Bank. Gardaí then continued to move and disperse those who were left among the crowd.
3.50pm: The remnants of the crowd outside the Department of Finance building joined a sit-down protest outside the gates of Leinster House, bringing the total there to about 300 protesters.
4.10pm: Following the conclusion of the sit-down protest, which ended without incident, a member of the Free Education for Everyone organisation announced they would be marching to Pearse Street Garda station, where they believed several arrested protesters had been brought.
4.25pm: The group of less than 30 protesters arrived outside the Pearse Street Garda station, where eight gardaí waited at the entrance. The protesters stood outside and chanted slogans calling for the students? release.
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