Second Grassroots Gathering in Cork a success

The second grassroots gathering was held over the Easter weekend (March 2002) in Cork. It was quite a success with nearly twice as many libertarian activists turning up as had been hoped for. Some seventy people from all over Ireland took part. Areas represented included Cork, Dublin, Limerick and Belfast as well as a scattering of other counties including Kildare, Kerry and Sligo. Some visiting international activists also dropped in, including people from Canada and Norway.

This gathering was a follow on from the Dublin one held in October, see the gathering web page for some details of this. The idea of the Gatherings is as a base around which libertarian activists can network, exchange information and plan for the future. This gathering included activists involved in Gluaiseacht , Workers Solidarity Movement, Reclaim the Streets, Dublin and Cork anti bin-charges campaigns , Anarcho-Syndicalist Federation, Cork Autonomous Zone, Reclaim the Glen, Anarchist Federation, Sellafield bike tour, The Bet, West Paupa support group, Shannon anti-war refueling and quite a few more.

The opening night saw a large group session where individuals gave a brief introduction to the sort of activism they were involved in, including those listed above. A member of the Cork Autonomous Zone explained that the rooms we were meeting in were available because a number of activists had come together to open up a space that could be used for a variety of activities. This was followed by the first of two fine parties in a nearby house which gave us all a chance to get to know each better.

On the Saturday four parallel workshop sessions ran through the day. I attended workshops on Alternative media, Anti war/refuelling, Peoples Global Action and a discussion around non-violence. The discussions at the workshops were mixed, some were quite productive, others like the media workshop were too general to be truly useful. The anti war/refuelling one was interesting as the shear number of US military planes landing at Shannon airport became apparent.

Some of the other workshops included 'activism and gender', Consensus decision making (which broke up without consensus being reached due to one participant being keen to highlight its flaws!), the World Bank meeting in Norway, activism after S11 and the criminalisation of activists. The previous gathering had led to a protest at Shannon where a number of people had been arrested for taking direct action against the presence of a US military transport, for a report see http://struggle.ws/wsm/news/2001/shannonDEC.html

We discussed ways this could be built on in the future. We were in general agreement that meaningful anti-war activity had to move from passive marches around Dublin's city centre to direct action aimed at Irish involvement in the war, principally around the use of Irish airports for refuelling war planes. There were also a number of workshops intended to be fun / relaxing including an alternative guided tour of Cork, meditation, clay modelling and juggling. For the first time there were also a number of bookstalls by some of the organisations that were present.

The day ended with a long general session to decide if and when we wanted another Grassroots Gathering. Provisionally we agreed one for the October bank holiday which will take place in Belfast. This time it will focus on campaigns we are involved in with some discussion of the issues that we do not agree on. A small group of people were mandated to prepare this agenda. We also did a collection at this session which covered the costs of the gathering and raised some money towards the costs of one of the protesters arrested at Shannon airport last year.

During the second party that night the alarming news came through that Caoimhe Butterly, a friends of many of the people present, was in Yasser Arafat's presidential compound in Ramallah currently under attack by the Israeli military. Despite the time the news came through some made plans to travel to Dublin after the Old Head of Kinsale event to protest as the Israeli embassy. As I write this I read on indymedia.ie that the protest continues there with two activists occupying a tree in the embassy compound.

Next morning dozens of people from the Gathering set out by car and bus to the Old Head of Kinsale. There we joined in a protest again the refusal of an exclusive golf club to allow people to follow the traditional walk to the lighthouse on the cliffs. The golf course had erected new barriers which included razor wire barriers and a 7ft fence on top of the old wall and ditch. We were prepared however and despite these barriers, local Gardai, Special Branch (Irish secret/political police) and 30 odd private security we scaled the fence and got to the lighthouse. More details and pictures from this protest at http://struggle.ws/wsm/news/2002/kinsaleMARCH.html

This piece of direct action was a great way to end the gathering and emphasised that we are not about token protest but effective direct action. Participation in the Grassroots Gathering is based around at statement agreed at the first Gathering which can be found on the web page. Essentially we want to provide a focus for those who reject authoritarian top down politics of political parties and campaigns and the climate of token protest and passive lobbying that often accompanies these politics.

Beyond this participation in the Gathering continues to be very broad and encompasses activists who might previously have dismissed each other as hippies or boring lefties. There are of course many areas where we disagree but the strength of the Gatherings have been in providing spaces where we network and begin some discussions of these disagreements as well as what we have in common. The Belfast gathering will be the first north of the border and should be the largest to date. If you broadly agree with the Gatherings aims make sure you get along to it.

Activists at the Old head of Kinsale
Pic: Some of those at the gathering pose for a picture inside the Golf course at the Old Head of Kinsale

WORDS Andrew Flood (Follow Andrew on Twitter )

  


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