Bloody Sunday - 30 years on tens of thousands march along the original route

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Sunday 3rd February 2002 saw the 30th Bloody Sunday march, held on the nearest Sunday 30 years after 13 marchers were shot dead by the British army and another 14 wounded (one fatally). Somewhere between 20,000 and 40,000 people (RTE "more than 20,000 people") followed the original route of the march from the Creggan down through the Brandywell to the Bogside

 

This was the biggest turnout since the 25th anniversary in 1997 when a similar number marched. Part of the large turnout this year was probably due to the heightened interest cause by the showing of two films about Bloody Sunday on TV in the last weeks.

Bloody Sunday march descends into Brandywell
Pic: Bloody Sunday march descends into Brandywell

As well as local anarchists a number of anarchists travelled to Derry from the weekend from other parts of Ireland including Dublin, Belfast, Sligo and Leitrim. I also ran into anarchists from England, Sweden and the Spanish State over the weekend. Various factors, not least the severe flooding that hit Dublin on Friday meant we had no flags and only a Mumia banner. But over 500 issues of Workers Solidarity were distributed at the start of the march and at events the day before so we weren't quite invisible.

As well as the march itself many other events had been organised over the weekend. On the Saturday most of these took place in the Pilots Row community centre on Rossville Street in the Bogside. Here there were very well attended video showings and discussions which focused on the Bloody Sunday Inquiry. There were also a number of stalls where various human rights, left and anarchist organisations distributed literature.

Free Mumia banner at Bloody Sunday march in Derry, Ireland
Pic: Free Mumia banner at Bloody Sunday march

One event I unfortunately missed was the screening of "Injustice", a "film about the struggles for justice by the families of people who died in police custody". This film was not about the north but rather about the killing of people in Britain by the police there. As their web page at http://www.injusticefilm.co.uk/ puts it "In 1969 David Oluwale became the first black person to die in police custody in Britain. Many others have died since then. None of the police officers involved have been convicted of these deaths. In this documentary, the families of these victims ask "Why not?""

I mention it here because after the showing I ended up talking to the director and one of the family members and it became obvious I had really missed something significant. It was also clear that the film only exists because of an extraordinary effort by a small group of people who decided that these stories had to be told. They hope to show it at NCAD in Dublin in the near future. This sort of global solidarity is also interesting in the light of the decision by the Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams to spend the weekend addressing the rich and powerful at the WEF in New York while protesters were being attacked outside by the police.

Over the last years the Bloody Sunday weekend has also become a useful meeting point for anarchists in Ireland to meet up and informally discuss the situation in the north. Much of the talk this year turned around the increased polarisation that has happened in the north, something underlined by the fact that as I write postal workers in Derry have stopped delivery until a threat by loyalists against a Catholic postal worker has been lifted. Three weeks earlier a half-day strike followed the loyalist murder of the Catholic postman, Daniel McColgan.

In many ways the level of sectarian tension has increased since the Good Friday agreement, a reflection of the way that agreement introduced a formal sectarianism into even electoral politics in the north. The difficult question for anarchists is how the working class can escape the sectarian trap.

While the vast majority of sectarian attacks have been carried out by Loyalists on Catholics (and Protestants who dare to socialise or live with Catholics) it is clear that sectarianism is also alive in the nationalist areas. One sad example we came across was an inter community mural that had been done by children on the fence that surrounds the loyalist 'Fountain' area. The mural had been recently petrol bombed by nationalist youth. The Fountain which is the last loyalist area on the Donegal side of Derry is surrounded by an enormous new plastic and wire fence (see picture).

The peace line that surrounds the loyalist Fountain estate in Derry
Pic: The wall that surrounds the loyalist Fountain estate in Derry

Bloody Sunday itself suffers from the same sectarianisation. Opposition to the shooting of demonstrators by the army should be a simple matter but unionist politicians are forever trying to turn it into a political football. The march itself, which is dominated by Sinn Fein banners and which ends with the playing of the southern national anthem, is something that its hard to convince any but a minority of northern radicals from a Protestant background to go on. The presence of delegations from US Police Departments and the Ancient Order of Hibernans hardly helps, although paramilitary bands are now discouraged.

Like everything else Bloody Sunday suffers from the deep divisions that sectarianism has imposed on the northern working class. It is our task to help find ways to break down these divisions, by replacing them with the politics of class against class. In doing so it is essential to find the ways that the deep injustices of the last 30 years can be confronted by workers of all religions and none.

Mainstream media reports

Relevant links

A view of Derry and the Foyle looking over the Brandywell towards the Waterside
Pic: A view of Derry and the Foyle looking over the Brandywell towards the Waterside

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