Secret police disguised as protesters at union demonstration?

Many of the hundred thousand plus people who took part in Saturday's demonstration against the IMF/ECB four year plan would be disturbed to know that mixed among them were a number of secret police disguised as protesters. And it appears these Special Branch operatives were among the small breakaway march to the Dail that occurred after the main protest and which some media outlets seized on as 'proof' of the violence the Garda and that section of the media had been hyping in advance of the protest. 

 

Darren who had travelled up to Dublin for the protest told WSM.ie that "I saw an old classmate called E. D. (full name with author) from Ballinasloe who had joined the Garda so I was surprized to see him outside the Dail in a black parka with a scarf over his face." Video footage on Youtube (below)  appears to show one of these secret police men who is dressed in a bulky jacket and who has a white hood pulled over his head to disguise his appearance.  Around 34 seconds in he approaches the middle of a line of Garda blocking Molesworth street. The mystery man whose back is to the camera throughout talks to the senior Guard in the line which then parts to let him through.

In advance of the protest the Garda were part of the ongoing effort by the establishment to separate those protesting the attacks on their living standards into 'good protesters' and 'bad protesters' with the bad protesters often referred to as infiltrators, left wing extremists etc. Garda Chief Supt Michael O'Sullivan said “there are individuals and groups who seek to exploit such events for their own ends”. In a press release on the eve of the demonstration Mark Malone for the WSM commented that "Luckily for O Sullivan, he has the names and address of all these people. They are under his command. The Garda Siochana must think we are stupid. Its is no coincidence that the only time a riot happens at a protest is when the riot cops show up." [Read the full press statement]

This of course did not stop right wing politicians and the media from using such statements from the Garda to try and scare people from attending the demonstration and to try and drive a wedge between the left and those protesting.

WSM.ie has talked to five people so far who were on the demonstration and who individually saw secret police men disguised as demonstrators. A union member who joined the breakaway march for a short time described how she became nervous after seeing two masked men suddenly join the demonstration from an alley way as it approached the Dail. Aidan Rowe, a Maynooth student activist, told us that "I saw several people, at least one wearing a mask, who were quite obviously walking around the crowd pretending to be demonstrators then going over to the uniformed Gardaí and giving them information."

Bernardo O'Reilly, a student activist involved in the UCD branch of Free Education for Everyone (FEE), witnessed at least one undercover Garda working within the small group of people outside the Dail.
"I was standing at the Kildare Street street entrance to Buswell's Hotel when I saw a middle-aged man wearing a black jacket, black ski-mask and black sunglasses move out from the crowd and walk up to a small group of police officers a few yards in front of me. He spoke to them in a rushed manner and did his best to point at some people in the protest as inconspicuously as possible. It was quite obvious that he was a police agent, told to move into the crowd and point out ringleaders."

The same secret police man had been seen earlier by another woman at the back of the main demonstration where the 1% Network bloc was. She became suspicious of him when saw him leave to "walk over to the Garda just as the back end of the march turned the corner onto O'Connell St."

In many countries the use of the secret police in such a manner includes their use as 'agent provocateurs' when they are placed in a crowd in order to initiate 'trouble' so that the uniformed riot police can then intervene.  Although the Garda had an interest in producing the violence that they had spent the week predicting when we asked Bernardo if he thought this was the case here he said he didn't, saying "As far as I could see, these police agents were there to point out the main 'trouble makers' as opposed to taking an agent provocateur role and starting trouble in order to spark a brutal police reaction. Nevertheless, activists should be wary of police agents acting in both ways in the weeks and months ahead as protests continue against the government and Budget cuts."

This is not the first time the secret police have been caught on film (below) in this manner. In 2007 during a SPP protest in Qubec three secret police men were disguised as demonstrators, one of whom was carrying a huge rock. They had been spotted by some anarchists who started shouting warnings to other demonstrators including a union leader who confronted the three. This lead to the secret police going over to a line of riot police and arranging to be 'arrested'. The comical error that confirmed the suspicion was that as they were brought to the ground to be arrested it became obvious that all three were wearing identical police issue footwear! After at first trying to deny the obvious the Quebec police were eventually forced to own up and admit that these apparent rioters were their officers.  Most recently gangs of secret police armed with batons were caught on film at the Toronto G20 summit. [Read more]. The Garda have admitted to co-ordinating their protest suppressions plans and training with police forces elsewhere where such tactics have been documented.

Secret police caught out in Quebec

When the Garda used batons, shields, dogs and horses to attack a student demonstration early in the month the excuse for their actions that some in the media trotted out was that a couple of bottles had been thrown at them. Even if this was true it hardly justified beating students sitting on the ground around the head but questions should be asked as to just who the unknown 'demonstrator' may have been working for, if they actually existed? On Saturday the Garda failed to get the riot they had predicted but questions remain as to what role secret policemen did play in the small crowd at the Dail which burnt a picture of Cowen and threw some fireworks, both actions in themselves expressions of legitimate anger.

As the warning the WSM issued in advance of the march concluded "we are met with a police force that is often intimidatory and, as recent times have shown, both violent and unaccountable.  But this is a distraction to what we seek to do tomorrow, which is to make our opposition to enforced insecurity clear and meaningful and to do so with others to build movements for direct democracy and proper control over our lives and futures."

WORDS: Andrew

First published on WSM.ie (follow Andrew on Twitter)


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