Sunday, 7 February 2016

Irish Protests

I was watching the news last night and I saw a story about a far right anti-muslim group being launched in Ireland. To be honest, I never heard of pegida until now. It was wonderful how an anti-racism group of people got together to peacefully demonstrate against pegida. The group of demonstrators included Muslims offering free hugs. They preemted the launch by scheduling their demonstration just before it.
Then trouble started when a splinter group went after those pegida members. The splinter group started shouting abuse and throwing stuff at them and following them into a nearby shop. While they may feel they were right to do what they did, they were as much in the wrong, in my opinion, as those they were after because the message of the anti-racism demonstration was one of peace, love,  respect and happiness. But a splinter group tried to use the demo to muscle in with their own agenda.
That is the problem with protests and demonstrations in Ireland. Take, for example, the water charges protest. It is supposed to be a family friendly and non-party political demonstration. Yet there are flags of political parties and groups at every mass demonstration. It should only be Right2Water, Right2Change and anti-austerity banners and flags outside of the many acceptable apolitical home made signs, posters, banners etc. But we put up with the political party banners and flags because these groups generally keep the peace and share the same or similar goals.
What happened after the pegida launch wasn't helped by an under resourced police force that suffers from low morale in recent times due to cutbacks. When a situation looks like going out of control they get the batons out and scream and shout and lash out at the slightest step out of line. It suggests panic to me, not policing. They try to keep the peace by force (ironically) and innocent people get hurt. But they weren't the cause of the problem yesterday. The cause was what diminishes most attempts at peaceful protest in this country. A splinter group muscling in with their own agenda. If you are there to cause trouble you don't belong. Yes, most of us want to lash out angrily sometimes at what goes on in this country. But the groups we oppose love the opportunity to use it as a political weapon against us. So we keep the violence in our heads and channel our anger to a more democratic process. Let's keep it that way at the next big demo on February 20th. And we have an election less than a week later to have our say again.

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