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Spirit of Contradiction >>
Anarchy in Dublin Against the EU
summit mobilisations |
Monday May 10, 2004 01:02 by Alexander Trocchi - IMC-Scotland
A Personal Account
A personal account from a member of the Black Bloc about
the events in Dublin, including anarchist and Irish history and
May Day! May Day! Anarchy Against the EU in Dublin
by Alexander Trocchi, CrimethInc Foreign Agent
They've learnt the ropes In Ireland, engaged in civil war, fighting for the ruling classes in their battle against the poor, so Ireland's just an island? It's an island of the mind. Great Britain? Future? Bollocks, you'd better look behind!
Crass "Big A, Little A, Bouncing B"
On May 1st of 2004, the leaders of the European Union feasted behind the towers of the plush Farmleigh Castle in Dublin, while less than a mile away outside the largest protest in recent history in Ireland took place. Inside the castle, under the august beneficence of An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern of Ireland, current President of the European Union; Blair, Berlusconi, and the rest of the criminal Presidents and Prime Ministers toasted their new formal allies, mostly their former enemies from behind the Iron Curtain from Slovakia to Estonia. With this expansion of the EU from 10 to 25 nations, the EU is now contains 450 million people, surpassing North America in both capital and population as the world's largest economic and political zone. Outside the gates, protesters locked armed and broke a line of police, only to be beaten back when the Gardai (Irish police) unleashed water cannons imported from the warzones of Northern Ireland onto the crowd. The contrast itself speaks volumes. Inside, the new "democratic" monarchs of Europe congratulate themselves for another round of successful empire-building, outside, peaceful protesters sit down in front of the riot cops and their water cannon while Irish kids throw beer cans and stones at the police. The eerie silence in Dublin after the event as the police drag nearly thirty protesters to jail speaks volumes. And in the words of anarchist August Spies to his judges on a May Day over a century ago, there will be a time when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today. Why the struggle? What's the odds? And why the day?
The Roots and Perversion of Mayday
The EU perversely celebrated their expansion on May Day, a day that has since before civilization itself celebrated anarchy and life. Since the dawn of time, the coming of Spring has been celebrated with wild abandon by humanity, as nature, with whom we are so intertwined, comes back to life - from the Celtic festival of Beltane to Italian festival of Floralia, throughout the world Mayday was a rebellious and fertile celebration that have historically served as thorn in the side of power. Peasants selecting a Queen of May, nominating the pagan Green Man as the lord of Misrule, and enthroning an Abbot of Disobedience - and this all was associated with Robin Hood and his Merry Men who took from the rich and gave to the poor! Up to the 17th centuries Puritans disapproved of the wild parties were held in the woods on May Day, where everyone regardless of class and gender engaged in drink and sex with abandon. The church first tried to neutralize it by declaring it a Holy Day to celebrate the saints, but the peasants ignored them, leading to May Day being outlawed by the Catholic Church and being one of the few days without a church service.
In the United States, the labor movement - including many anarchist organizers and agitators - engaged in a massive strikes in the early 1880s, bringing the manufacturing capital of Chicago to a standstill. While an uneasy peace prevailed May Day itself, Chicago police on May Day attacked striking union members at McCormick Reaper, leaving four dead. Anarchists called for a meeting in Haymarket Square to discuss the matter and to arm themselves in self-defense, a meeting that was peaceful until it was surrounded by the police. Someone threw a bomb and seven police were killed, and in the ensuing chaos eight anarchists - including August Spies and Albert Parsons (husband of famed anarchist Lucy Parsons) - were arrested for murder. At their mock trial, they were sentenced to death, and even the judge admitted that they were on trial for their insurrectionary words and for being anarchists, not their deeds on May 3rd as no evidence of them having anything to do with the bombing has ever been found. Many anarchists, such as Emma Goldman, were radicalized by the events. During their funeral procession, hundreds of thousands gathered to mourn them. Ever since Haymarket and May Day have been commemorated as a celebration of working-class resistance against state and capital as well as a pagan celebration of life. In the United States, the government proclaimed a state-sponsored "Labor Day" in the first Monday of September to celebrate their control over the union hierarchy, and rechristened May Day as "Law Day." Despite this historical travesty, anarchists today all over the world, from Korea to the United States, celebrate resistance on May Day. So it comes as no surprise that the European Union would once again attempt, as everyone from the Romans to the United States has, to co-opt May Day into a masturbatory celebration of state power. And as always, resistance returns - this time as a network of Irish activists "who come together to fight for a better future", known as the Dublin Grassroots Network, and who called for protests on May Day. Their call was endorsed by other activists around the world such as the London-based anarchist WOMBLES collective. The perversion of May Day was not going to go unchallenged
The Rise of Fortress Europe
Still, many Irish and Americans regard the European Union as kindler, gentler alternative to a world dominated by the psychopathic military power of the United States, and this myth belies the danger of the European Union, dubbed "Fortress Europe" by its opponents. Many still think of Europe as a land of happy-go-lucky social democracies with free health care and applaud the actions of Chirac and Schroeder standing up to Bush's genocidal war. Little could be further from the truth. If anything, it is the European Union, not the United States, that stands as the most likely example of the next phase of capitalist Empire, as a tightly economically integrated trans-national multi-lingual superpower with expansive borders, a power that prefers the velvet glove of economic exploitation to the iron fist of military power, and a tight division between the ruling class and their wage-slaves, both illegal and legal... all at the service of corporations and unelected bureaucrats. The European Union, while openly protesting Bush's war, struggled to maintain its oil rights more than Iraqi rights and marks its meeting in Dublin as another chance to get behind Bush, as Ireland's formerly civilian airport at Shannon now becomes a pit-stop for Bush's war planes. Instead of free health care and education, the European Union aims to privatize everything Margaret Thatcher style, starting with ending free garbage pick-up last year in Dublin and having everything from pensions (retirement) to college on its rooster for privatization next. If anything, it's the European Union that allows the rich rulers, the bankers and the politicians, of Europe to more tightly co-ordinate their plans for the destruction of local autonomy and human rights, while getting good publicity from the occasional development project or protecting European farm subsidies. In an international context, the European Union gathers its forces to make non-aligned countries such as those in South America and Africa accept the "Argentina plan" of neo-liberalization, as Ireland watches manufacturing companies such as Fruit of the Loom move their factories to Morrocco where union organizers are routinely murdered. The EU supports free movement of capital everywhere, while the free movement of people is restricted. Thousands of people wishing to enter the EU die in inhumane border camps, and those lucky enough to get in are denied all rights and work for below minimum wages in sweatshops and as servants. The Schengen Information System is used in the fashion of Big Brother to track every move of immigrants, and soon...a new database will be made for protesters. It's the people everywhere who will be beneath the star-studded boot of the EU. Yes, welcome Eastern Europe and Mediterranean Isles to the European Union! Ireland may have won their independence from London, but they lost it to Brussels.
Welcome to Ireland
Ireland has a history that is mostly unknown to many anarchists. In the Dark Ages it stood as a beacon of learning and tolerance, until it was brutally conquered by the invading Vikings and English, later made into a "white" colony, where many of the brutal methods used in Africa and other colonies were pioneered and perfected. For example, girls who had become pregnant, illegitimate, orphaned, or just deemed "too pretty" or "unintelligent" were locked up and put to work, without pay, in profit-making laundries for the Catholic Church to "wash away their sins." To this day abortion is illegal in Ireland. Irish were considered sub-human used by England as a source of cheap raw materials and even cheaper labor. When the main crop of potatoes - a monocultural cash-crop approach to farming being currently inflicted across the world by globalization - was hit by a blight the ensuing famine killed over a million, with over another million fleeing in "coffin ships" to the America as greedy English landlords took advantage of this opportunity to seize Irish land. Large amounts of Protestant Scots moved into Northern Ireland at the bequest of the English rulers, particularly Ulster. Ireland has to this day still not recovered its population. As with many colonies, a national liberation movement, often with socialist tendencies, developed, forming the basis of what later became Irish Republican Army (IRA) and its legal arm, Sinn Fein ("Ourselves Alone"). Waged through both electoral constitutional agitation in British Parliament, in 1911 the Liberal Party in Britain through its support behind Home Rule for Ireland, but the forces of the Ulster Unionists and the Conservatives defeated the plans. The British aristocracy and Ulster Unionists began arming themselves to defeat the Irish independence movement, and in the Easter Uprising of 1916 Irish rebels began an armed struggle against Britain - one that was put down through the execution of sixteen of its leaders and the razing of many poor Irish neighborhoods in Dublin. Seeing their legal efforts fail and the immense brutality that the British were ready to use to crush dissent, Irish society rose up in revolt. A wholescale guerrilla campaign against the British began, with some tactics such Tom Barry's Flying Column in Cork becoming examples to guerrillas everywhere. An illegal Irish dual power structure developed, with "British" and "Irish" having separate versions of everything from church to townhall. In 1919 the city of Limerick was taken over after a general strike that was called in protest of the police murder of a Irish rebel. Limerick was then under the control of workers' councils, which ran the city in a co-operative manner for two weeks. After years of war, a truce was declared in 1921 and the subsequent Treaty split Ireland into the Irish Free State and Northern Island. While many Irish sided with the Irish Free State, the IRA reorganized and continued a guerrilla war to reunite Northern Ireland with Ireland, including a bombing attempt that almost killed Margaret Thatchter, and ambushing British soldiers and state-sponsored anti-Irish death squads. These anti-Irish forces such as the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) used violence to put down a non-violent civil rights movement for equal rights in Northern Ireland. Calls for disarmament and negotiations with the British government have led to a relatively peaceful period recently, but currently the British government has dissolved home rule for Northern Ireland and the situation is tense. In the South, the moving of American high-tech companies like Intel to Ireland led to a brief economic boom in which Ireland could be paraded about by EU and neoliberals as its "Celtic Tiger," but a general economic recession and blatant government corruption have soured the picture considerably. Given the long history of tragedy that Irish people have suffered at the hands of the British military and "Troubles" in Northern Ireland, it is not surprising that many Irish people have issues with the dogma of nonviolence and violence, as well as balaclavas. However, it is also clear that Ireland has a history resistance that could prove a fertile ground for uprisings against their new colonial overlords, the multinational corporations and the EU.
Getting Ready to Rumble
The Dublin Grassroots Network has called for a Mayday action, and with nothing particularly interesting happening in Edinburgh, I jumped over to Ireland. When I arrived in Ireland, the only place I could find on the maps given out at the Dublin Mayday website was the Indymedia Centre. Surprisingly, there was no clear convergence centre, and e-mails of my comrades in Indymedia Scotland to Indymedia Ireland had told us not to come early since everything was sorted. When I got to the Indymedia Centre, this was far from the case. First, it was obvious that the spirit of the anti-globalization movement was in the air, with tables set up with groups from the Irish anarchist Workers Solidarity Movement to the Greek Anti-Authoritarian Movement giving out free literature, and free tea being provided. However, the air was tense - and logistics were a mess. After an announcement that the local kids from the council flats (housing for those on the dole, or welfare) were dismantling people's bikes for spare parts, a hoarse Irish activist announced that the squat they had hoped to use as a convergence centre and for housing had been raided by the cops and that the three squatters who were there holding the fort down were in jail. Immediately, there was panic. The police were already arresting people, and now there was nowhere to have meetings or even to sleep.
Perhaps one of the most stunning parts of the build-up to Mayday in Dublin was the tabloid's sensational lies that "Anarchist mobs were going to destroy Dublin" and even a full-spread article on one of the organizers of Dublin Grassroots Network entitled "Teacher by Day, Anarchist by Night." While I'm sure many anarchists would have loved to see a few corporate banks get hit with a molotov, and the windows of a McDonald's broken, the fear-mongering that anarchists were going to destroy ordinary people's property - or as one tabloid claimed, release a chemical bomb killing 10,000 innocent Dubliners - was absolutely unwarranted. As usual, the press was trying to divide the
protesters from the people who are every day suffering under the heel of the very system the protesters are against. While some of the outrageous slander may be attributed to the strange British and Irish tabloid culture - where the lines between legitimate news and tabloids are blurred, clearly this a part of a larger strategy by the global elite to use the media to spread their message and label revolutionaries as terrorists. Thus, the window is open for Indymedia to broadcast the truth. As the tabloids become more and more obviously outrageous in their lies, and as the actions of the protesters were clearly going to prove them wrong, the man and woman on the streets was going to know that their not only was the state-sponsored media lying, but that their rulers of the EU were clearly afraid of something - and that something was popular revolt, not broken windows. Dublin Grassroots Network and Indymedia Ireland, unlike many Indymedia Centres which had long ago given up on even interacting with the corporate media, decided on a proactive media offensive, using the opportunity of the Mayday protests to bring anarchism and the problems of the EU into the spotlight. They did - and although the tabloid media distorted things, anarchists got called on to Irish talkshows, did radio interviews, and even the tabloids generally made it known that the protests were "anti-capitalist" and "against the EU", surprisingly without putting a nationalist slant on things. Everyone in Ireland had at least heard about "anarchy" and "anti-capitalism" in the build-up to Mayday.
However, with no convergence centre and nowhere to go, many protesters began hanging out in the Indymedia Centre, which began causing problems since Indymedia Ireland was using the space under the auspices of the Dublin-based Community Media Network, which weren't too keen on having the space being used for anything other than video showings. This led to a weird situation with Indymedia Ireland members serving as representatives of the shadowy Community Media Network, telling protesters to stop cooking food, making banners, and having meetings in the Indymedia Centre since it was a "media centre", not a "convergence centre," despite there de facto being no convergence centre. This led to no small amount of ill-will between Indymedia Ireland/Community Media Network and many international protesters, who were occasionally locked out of the centre and felt that the Indymedia Centre was prioritizing press conferences with corporate media over housing, food, and even having a meeting to find out what the hell was going on for Mayday. Despite the harsh words, it soon became clear that there was going to be no media event to report on without the protesters, and in between video showings Indymedia Ireland and Dublin Grassroots Network folks managed to pull together a few short planning meetings and tried managed to not get everyone kicked out the Indymedia Centre. There were clearly two tactical problems - one is that a squat should never be guaranteed for something as critical as a convergence centre, and also more open and egalitarian process where Indymedia Ireland and the Community Media Network sat down and talked out the problems with the protesters instead of delivering orders was needed. However, given the stressful situation and occasional harsh word, both sides fundamentally made good out of a bad situation. Outside, an open international anarchist meeting happened to co-ordinate the tactics for the next day, and as one Brit noticed "that the balance of the class war is not fundamentally in our favor" and that the Irish comrades had asked for a peaceful protest, a tactical decision was reached: the protesters would not destroy in property or provoke the police, but if the police tried to stop the march by force the protesters were going to defend themselves, linking arms and breaking police lines if necessary. This tactical stance was quickly accepted by the Dublin Grassroots Network, and everyone went home happy if nervous. At the last minute the Dublin police declared all the anti-EU march illegal and its meeting point off-limits, but people quickly chose to a new location under the strange steel pinnacle in the heart of the busiest street in Dublin - and just a few hours after the meeting we heard the meeting point announced over the corporate news. Also, Dublin experienced it's largest critical mass ever - with over five hundred people - and the tide of despair slowly turned to one of hope. Also, the next day an "undercover" tabloid reporter printed the "Secret Diary of Anarchist No. 214" in which the contents of the tactical meeting were divulged.
Earlier, a jail solidarity march had taken place that surprisingly unmolested managed to block the front of jail with a banner stating that "Our Passion for Freedom is Stronger than Any Prison," and despite rather low numbers managed to attract random Irish children on bikes, who pumping their fists in the air led shouts of "Free Polly Murphy". I might add that while our passion is very strong indeed, being in jail is till an experience I have no wish to repeat regardless of my current passions. After the march, several homeless Irish people came by and asked us what were doing. We gave them some pamphlets, but they told us that they couldn't read. So we sat down for nearly an hour in a park explaining that essentially the EU makes the rich richer and the poor poorer all over Europe, and that poor Irish people have more in common with poor Poles than their so-called leaders and bosses. The homeless Irish folks emphatically agreed, and even got some of their friends to come by to hear the explanation again. Noticing that most people on the street seemed sympathetic despite the media onslaught, my affinity group decided that it was time for last minute outreach to the Irish people. A pamphlet entitled "To the Proud Men and Women of Dublin" outlining the arguments against the EU and for international anarchy was quickly typed up and copied, and within hours our group had distributed a thousand copies to council flats and other poor areas in Dublin. While the city of Dublin went through pains to hide its poor on obscure streets and behind the gates of council estates, we were met unilaterally with interest and support, with one older Irish man telling us to "stick it to the real terrorists like Blair!". The most common misconception seemed to be that we were advocating a "Ireland for the Irish" approach, but after explanation even the town drunk who just a minute beforehand had seemed a tad racist was declaring himself an international socialist. The police, clearly threatened by the flyers, stopped us and searched our bags, searching for "the bleach that anarchists were going to throw in cop's eyes." If the people of Ireland were too smart for the tabloids, it was clear the cops were reading and believing them.
Water, Water Everywhere and not a Drop to Drink
Even though the streets of Dublin were lined with cops and the air smelled of a police state, I sat back in the pub relaxing with a pint of Guinness with an international cabal of anarchists from throughout Europe, one of whom even had a full-page expose of his background as "troubled schoolboy," his taste for wearing "a reinforced baseball cap to escape police beatings," and claimed that his "military-grade battle sense would bring chaos to Dublin." Surrounded by slightly besotted Irish football fans playing pool, as our pictures from the Critical Mass and prison solidarity march came up on the screen, the Irish locals laughed at us and gave us winks. Given the relatively small numbers at the protests and the high police harassment, we were worried, so we chugged one final beer and marched to our meeting spot in front of the GPO on O'Connell Street - and to our delight there was thousands gathering to protest the EU. Due to its open organizing and non-sectarian image, the Dublin Grassroots Network had attracted hordes of Irish people, ranging from union members to punk rockers to protest the EU. It was clear this was going to be the largest anti-globalization march Dublin had ever seen, legal or not.
The march began at a fast pace, as one Irish anarchist noted, the fastest he had ever seen a several thousand march move. Luckily, it was fast enough. The Dublin Grassroots Network had decided, given the police's continual efforts to shut down their march - that they were not going to tell the police any march route, and instead did a few sudden street turns that surprised the police, and for hours the march went on relatively unmolested by police. In fact, it went so fast about half way through a collective break was taken, and the police still didn't catch up! The police, unable to handle a march that didn't follow their directions, let the march go within a mile of Farmleigh Castle, much closer than anyone had expected. While the banner of the march award definitely went to the Irish anarcho-punk women with the huge mohawks and the "One must have chaos within to give birth to a dancing star" banner, other anarchists got in a Black Bloc to prepare for the inevitable confrontation by the police. While a small army of police surrounded a McDonald's, a Volkswagen dealer made of what appeared to be pure glass went undefended, with the Black Bloc smiling as they went by it peacefully. Lots of ordinary Irish people joined in the march, often with a pint of Guinness in hand. Children from council flats we had seen earlier stealing bikes in front of Indymedia and running about dilapidated buildings while handing flyers also appeared in the march. One who recognized me went up to me and asked "When the riot was going to happen," and informed me that he and his twelve-year old friends had made petrol-bombs in preparation! I told him the riot was going to begin whenever the police attacked the march, and to keep cool.
The march soon came to a gateway, and the police, desperately noticing the march was getting without earshot of Farmleigh castle, formed a wall in front of the march. The front of the march, we had been a model of self-restraint and discipline up to this point, in an orderly fashion let the Black Bloc come to the front to confront the police. I had myself been holding one of the banners in the Bloc, and soon found myself in the frontline, locking arms with my fellow black-clad anarchists...quite a few of which had smiley-faces stenciled on their balaclavas. I wasn't sure if that was supposed to be funny for ourselves or the cops. We approached the front of the police-lines, bracing ourselves for the final showdown. Butterflies in my stomach, I admitted to the anarchist I was locking arms with that "I'm not actually sure this is going to work." She nodded likewise, but what choice did we have? We had to do something and we had made an agreement with the rest of the protesters. So, with cries of "Solidarity!" coming up from all sides, we walked up to the line of cops and braced ourselves. We ambled right into the line of cops, who also locked arms. For a few minutes we did a strange dance with the cops, with a horde of people pressing behind on us, the pressure on both us and the cops began reaching the breaking point.
I gasped for air as the crowd pushed against my back, caught like a sandwich between the crowd and cop. The police chief yelled at me "You call this non-violent!", to which I responded that he could simply let us march right to Farmleigh Castle instead of stopping us. The line of anarchists slowly formed a wedge, and in one giant heave the three-deep cop line broke, and anarchists began running straight down the road past the fleeing cops with triumphant cheers. I screamed for people to maintain formation, but it was too late - and riot cops with shields and batons in hand had used the delay to get in formation behind the fleeing line of cops we had just ran through, and within minutes all hell had broken loose as the riot cops began an attack, and the recently triumphant anarchists ran back. Then, as if out of nowhere, a water cannon imported from Northern Ireland appeared and sprayed the crowd. Instead of fleeing, the riot cops stood in amazement as people began running towards the water cannon, dancing in the falling water.
As the water cannon began to move forward surrounded by a squadron of riot police, as another group of protesters began sitting down in front of water cannon, brandishing peace signs in their hands. Confused, the riot cops and water cannon lost its momentum, and the one-two combination of Black Bloc anarchists breaking the police lines and non-violence civil disobedience threw the cops for a loop. As the riot cops beat the protesters that were blockading their new toy from attacking the rest of the crowd, the main part of the march divided into two parts - one part that stood a bit back, and others that rushed the water cannon, including one brave soul that jumped on the front of the water cannon. The one time I have seen a water cannon disabled was when in Quebec City when a courageous anarchist, hockey-stick in hands, jumped on the side windows of it and smashed them in, terrifying the drivers of the water-cannon into backing their cannon up. However, in the streets this time any action of this sort was clearly prevented by lines of riot cops surrounding the water cannon. Quite a few demonstrators noticed that the water cannon couldn't fire very well at targets that were right in front of it, and crowded the riot cops and the water cannon, causing the riot cops to occasionally lash out in panic and stalling their attempted cleaning of the square. Many people, with the majority probably being Irish locals, began throwing their beer cans and water bottles at the police lines, and the situation began resembling a strange Irish intifada in Dublin. A Greek friend of mine in our Scottish affinity group was asked by a Sinn Fein member who had just lobbed a beer can at the cops where he was from. When he replied that he was from Scotland, the Sinn Fein member said he was glad to see a member of the "Scottish Liberation Army" there to help out. Perhaps such an organization actually exists, and in the heat of the moment we had little time to explain the merits of internationalism! One particularly creative fellow even managed to grab a few bricks. Slowly but surely, the crowd was forced back, and as usual with most protests, what had started as an organized and disciplined effort degenerated into a sort of chaotic mass of people after the cops attacked. During most protests a fairly detailed plan for before the cops attack is drawn up, but no endgame for after the inevitable cop attack is ever made. After the march, we were tagged by a undercover cop.
One female police officer was supposedly "given a serious wounding" after being hit by something - of course, the protesters were labeled as violent thugs in the tabloids the next day in the media over this one incident, and no mention was made that the police woman was merely "doing her job," her job being defending the EU leaders who are responsible for the state-sponsored murder of thousands, from Iraq to refugee camps in on the borders of the EU itself. And we protesters are simply doing our job too, a job with its own set of occupational hazards, such as being beaten by the police and thrown in jail. Our job is to stop the murdering bastards, and unlike the police woman, no-one's paying us. Given the situation of being assaulted by riot cops and a water cannon imported from Northern Ireland, we all were having the time of our lives.
Anarchists Plan Street Festival in Revenge!
In the words of one comrade describing Mayday in Berlin, "just as it takes a whole village to raise a child, it seems it takes a whole community to host a sustainable riot." Riot would be a strong word for Mayday Dublin, as it was - besides a some throwing of mostly beer cans - one of the most non-violent and disciplined anti-globalization protests I had ever seen. It was obvious the local communities of activists and many ordinary people were behind us! However, the tabloids were having none of it: "Anarchists plan Revenge Attack Tomorrow!" screamed the papers. Regrouping at the Indymedia Centre, we were forced to have a very brief meeting in between arguments with the Community Media Network about the validity of having meetings in their space. While there was no time for a wrap up, a quick plan was made to do a jail solidarity march with the nearly thirty people arrested at the Mayday demo and then converge back the City Centre of Dublin for a Reclaim the Streets.
Although due to the strange holiday bus schedule and the fact that our affinity group was staying half an hour out of town, we managed to make it to the jail solidarity demo, which again did a impromptu street seizure and again was met with incredulous stares by the few Dublin cops who managed to get their act together enough to try to at least follow us. Joined by local kids on bikes, who raised their fist in the air for a "Free Polly Murphy!", we converged with the Reclaim the Streets. For what seemed to be an excruciating long period of time we sat around, waiting for something to happen. Local children held up an "Expansion = Exploitation" banner with the Wombles, and when they were told that they were holding a banner next to the most infamous anarchists in Dublin, one child said, "You're a Womble? I hate you!", but then kept holding the banner. It was almost too cute.
Finally, the crowd, led a Samba band, took the streets as the police harmlessly watched. Several hundred us, blowing whistles and banging on drums, marched down the street. A cry went up that someone had been arrested, and we rushed to the unmarked van where the cry came from. However, within minutes the van pulled out, and giving a thumbs up, we knew that our mate hadn't been arrested - but had jumped into the sound-system van! The crowd gathered at an intersection in front of a local pub, where locals stared at us like we were mad from the windows, and couples from the flats around us leaned out their windows to see what the anarchist mob was about to do next. The van opened and out came speakers, turntables, banners, and within minutes somehow the record player hit the turn table and the deep bass of a reggae beat to bring down Babylon itself came out. The crowd went wild, and within second a formerly lonely and forgotten intersection in Dublin became a wild dance party that would have done a pagan May Day ceremony proud. The dancers, a strange mix of international and Irish protesters from yesterday mixed with kids who just wanted to dance and everyone began vibrating their hips as one. Out of nowhere Food Not Bombs and large quantities of free beer appeared. Dublin police, who gained some notoriety by brutally suppressing the last Reclaim the Streets in Dublin, just watched. A woman dressed head-to-toe in latex with a baby dressed as an angel started erotically dancing near them, and even the cops smiled. The party was on! It went on for an indeterminate number of hours, till finally we left, well-fed, well-danced, and drunk off both the alcohol and life.
Hindsight is Twenty-Twenty
If you think that by hanging us you can stamp out the labour movement . . . the movement from which the downtrodden millions, the millions who toil in misery and want, expect salvation -- if this is your opinion, then hang us! Here you will tread on a spark, but there and there, behind you -- and in front of you, and everywhere, flames blaze up. It is a subterranean fire. You cannot put it out.
August Spies, at his trial after the Haymarket Massacre
The true measure of a protest comes not from the events of the few days of confrontation it engenders, but from the building of movements in creates in its wake. For a city such as Dublin that has never hosted an globalization summit before, the true success of the Mayday protests will be measured by the growth of the anti-globalization and anarchist movements in Ireland. It appears that in this, Mayday Dublin was a success - for weeks, despite the slanders of the corporate media, anarchists and anti-capitalism was the subject of everyone's chatter. Afterwards, instead of showing themselves to be black flag-waving terrorists, the anarchists - including the internationals - showed themselves capable of restraint and co-operation with locals. There was no massive property destruction against ordinary Irish people. Instead, there was a well-coordinated confrontational approach was taken, that pushed the limits of what the protesters thought they were capable of, and did break police lines. It was clearly the police who reacted with real violence, with batons and water-cannons, making Dublin appear to be Belfast of the Troubles. The build-up and media relations by the Dublin Grassroots Network and Indymedia Ireland got hundreds, if not thousands, of Irish people interested in confronting power and seizing control of their own lives from the capitalist machinery, whether it was based in Brussels or anywhere else. There were no bombs. Instead, there was a popular march that fought back in self-defense and a damn good street party. Ultimately, the message got across, and actions spoke louder than words.
There were clearly some infrastructure problems with the protests, and these are to be expected especially in a place such as Dublin where the first big anti-globalization protest is organized. First, not having a convergence centre made the entire time more difficult. As did the behavior of some members of Indymedia Ireland who acted as hand-maidens for authoritarian dictates of the Community Media Centre. Obviously, the strength of a protest comes through the action on the street, not the amount of people with video-cameras trying to document the action. It's clear that only through open, transparent use of democratic (or anarchistic if you ask me!) consensus should decisions be made, and room should be made for discussion and compromise, as well as last minute adaption. Lots of people who came from out of town, such as myself, were understandably being tailed by undercover cops and having a convergence centre as a safe haven of sorts would have been useful. Large and secure accommodation needs to be secured beforehand, and every Indymedia centre should post-Genoa expect to be raided and try not to let fear run their operations...and having working computers with internet connections helps. Actions such as the no-border action were hindered by protesters being housed far away and having no knowledge of the city layout. Having large spokes-council meetings - as much as people including myself get bored to tears in them - is utterly essential. Even while only the most common-sense decisions usually get made, it's important for people to have access to the information about what's going on. Also, before doing something crazy like marching straight into police lines its good knowing that other people are with you. Strangely, meetings can boost morale. The international protesters also took far too little time to actually talk to local Irish activists, and didn't take the time to fully understand the difficult circumstances and local context they were working in. And many internationals brought beer into the Indymedia Centre, against both common-sense and the wishes of the IMC. Solving these problems is a tall order to say the least - so invite people over early, and take honest stock of the situation before the next globalization summit comes to town, and the fact that the G8 is coming to Britain next year is already on everyone's minds. Lastly, the corporate media will lie about dissent, since that's its whole modus operandi. Lack of good media should never be mistaken for lack of popular support. As our experience flying in the council flats showed, there's hordes of people who agree that politicians are corrupt, that government is useless, and that the real violence comes from the wars of our elites and the expense of the poor, who get poorer as the rich get richer. In fact, this anarchist analysis is common-sense! So go out and talk to your neighbors before the protest, especially people in poor and working-class areas of town, and these one-on-one conversations are more valuable than any website or news report.
The real tactical strength of Dublin came from its creative play of differences, as all good protests do. In all of these anti-globalization summits, it was the combination of forces that always have proved crucial. In Seattle, the combination of the lock-downs and the Black Bloc, with the massive numbers brought about by the labor and environmental alliance, won the day. In Quebec, it was the anarchists who pulled the fence down, only to make room for the Quebecois locals to stage a revolt against the occupying Canadian police. At the anti-G8 protests in Switzerland, it was a combination of tactical burning blockades combined with large marches by civil society that mucked things up for the G8. It does us little good to argue about the One Right Way (tm) to have a protest, and it does us much better to open up the space for a true diversity of tactics. The defining moment of the Dublin Mayday protests was win, right after the Black Bloc had broken police lines, the water cannon appeared, and immediately pacifist protesters sat down in front of it to block its forward motion. Many of those, such as the anarchists that charged the riot cops and the pacifists that lay in the path of the water cannon, are still currently being held in Dublin - so go find an Irish embassy or consulate and protest! A movement is only a strong as it can support its members that are behind bars. And despite the arrests, our passion for freedom is stronger than their prisons. For a few moments in Dublin, it was as clear as night and day - on one side stood the riot cops and their water cannons, guarding their leaders who wined and dined in castles, and on the others stood everyone else - children from Council Flat, black-clad anarchists, independent journalists, pacifist in rainbow colors, working-class Irish men and women. The veneer of legitimacy was stripped from the European Union, and it was People versus Power. August Spies would have been proud, I hope. The subterranean fires, the fires of anarchy and freedom, are still burning in our hearts more than century after his execution. And no water cannon is going to put the fire out.
In the socialist world, the first of May is considered the Labor holiday. This is a mistaken description that has so penetrated the lives of the toilers that in many countries that day is indeed celebrated as such. In fact, the first of May is not at all a holiday for the toilers. No, the toilers should not stay in their workshops or in the fields on that date. On that date, toilers all over the world should come together in every village, every town, and organize mass rallies, not to mark that date as statist socialists and especially the Bolsheviks conceive it, but rather to gauge the measure of their strength and assess the possibilities for direct armed struggle against a rotten, cowardly, slave-holding order rooted in violence and falsehood.
Nestor Makno, Dyelo Truda No.36, 1928
For more info:
Indymedia Ireland: www.indymedia.ie
Anarchy in the UK: www.enrager.net
Dublin Grassroots Network: www.geocities.com/eufortres
Workers Solidarity Movement: www.struggle.ws
Anarchist Propaganda by CrimethInc: www.crimethinc.com