In the end O'Connell street was thronged with people as angry as I was. To our amazement 15,000 people turned up. The crowd was noisy, furious and powerful. Six days later the government overturned its injunction. We had made a difference. We had stopped a great injustice. We were powerful.
Dublin Corporation however wanted to put a stop to that. If they had their way, there would be no more large marches in the city centre. In April they tried to introduce new by-laws which would prevent protests occurring in O'Connell Street.
Under the proposal, anyone intending to demonstrate would have to firstly apply to Dublin Corporation for permission. Nowhere in the laws does it state on what basis permission would be granted or refused. If there was to be more than 50 people on the demonstration, a refundable deposit of £2,000 would have to be lodged with the Corporation. Somehow, the organisers of the event would have to ensure that no more than 300 people turned up or chase away the extras. If the organisers think they would have more than 300, they would have to provide Indemnity Insurance worth £3 million.
Think back to the X-Case, to a dozen of us sitting in the back room of a pub, most of us unemployed or students. It would have been impossible for us to follow these rules.
At the time of the X-Case, we marched, we stopped the government. When these new laws were proposed, we marched, we stopped the Corporation. Following a public outcry the Councillors voted down the new proposals.
In hindsight, its worth asking why the proposals were put forward in the first place. Dublin Corporation argued that these laws were part of their plan to clean up O'Connell Street. However these laws are only part of a rake of legislation that aims to keep political activity out of public space, laws including
In addition many places that were once public are now in private hands. Activists once could leaflet on the streets, in shopping centres this is no longer possible. Over the last 10 years, almost unnoticed, bit by bit our freedom to be political in a public space has been taken away from us. The Corporation were defeated in this instance, but they will almost inevitably try again. This time they were testing the water, to see how far they could go. It is only a matter of time before new, more 'moderate' proposals are put in place. We defeated them once, we can do so again. Watch This Space.
www.struggle.ws/wsm/news.html for pictures and a report of the demonstration
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