A Shell to Sea jailing and run in with the secret police

Shell to Sea campaigner Maura Harrington was once more jailed Friday.  At the protest I noticed that the secret police were observing us from the far side of the road and about five minutes after leaving two of them drove a car in front of my bike in order to stop me for questioning. I've included the report I wrote for indymedia on the protest below but this blog is more about the conversation with the branch and the conversation that followed it with John Zerzan.

That's the first time I've been questioned by the secret police in about a year (last time was outside the Spanish embassy this time last year I think). It's happend a few times over the years along with the experiences of being followed both by cars and remotely via the Gardai street cameras (that is quite an unsettling experience as you watch every camera you pass swivel to follow you as you pass through town!) The excuse this time was that they thought I'd committed a minor traffic offence.  The conversation went something like this.

Red car shoots right across from the far side of the road, pulls alongside me and Secret Police bronze tan man 1 says something along the lines of 'Stop we want to talk to you about a road traffic offence'.

As they get out of the car I'm taking out my iPhone

SP1: What are you doing with that?

Me: I'm going to record our conversation. (In fact I had just updated to OS4 that morning and dumped my recording programs in a folder which I couldn't locate as I was unfamilar with the new layout, so no recording).

SP1: We stopping you under the Road Traffic act, are you aware you broke a red light back there.

SP2: with notebook and the same tan: What's you name, address and date of birth

Me: Andrew Flood and XXXX but I don't have to give you my date of birth

SP1: You committed an offence under the road traffic act

Me: I don't have to give you my date of birth

There was a bit of back and forth on this.  There isn't any requirement to give your date of birth when questioned but they always want it because I think they need it to do a PULSE (police computer system) lookup.  Eventually they give up.

SP1: Whereabout's in Dublin is that?

I name a nearby landmark

SP1: What postal district is it?

Me: XX

SP1: Do you have any ID

Me: No

SP1: How do we know your telling the truth?

Me: Because its a offence to give you false information.

SP1: Thats true, you don't have any ID?

Me: No

SP1: You must have something, a bank card or something?

This is a little weird as its hard to believe these two characters don't already know who I am.  I've seen them spying on a number of protests in the last couple of months, they are probably assigned to whatever Red section the Special Branch are running and thus have access to great big files on me and other people going back two decades. There are not after all so many of us.  But I'm on my way to a John Zerzan meeting where I want to challenge him so I'm getting a little frustrated with the delay.

Me. Oh yeah I have a bank card (I take one from my wallet and show it to him, it has my name on it but nothing else and of course no Date of Birth).

SP1: Ok we'll let you off this time

Me: Yeah it's not worth the paperwork, is it?

SP2: You'd be surprised what's worth the paperwork

And with that then two of them got back in the car and drove off.  I'm still a bit puzzled about quite what that encounter was about, my only theory is that Cowen was a bit wound up about him and his IBEC cronies getting shouted at as they arrived at the IBEC dinner on Tuesday night (must blog that) and that trickled down into the branch being told to hassle people a bit.  I'm also annoyed that I forgot to ask them for their ID at the start of the process.  I've written a personal history of encounters with the branch and what it means for a publication on policing that's been put together, once that gets finished and goes online I'll post a link.

The Zerzan meeting itself was fairly uneventful.  Thanks to the cops I missed a good chunk of his presentation, the bit I caught was pretty rambling and soft, mostly at the level of 'isn't x technology frightening' and 'don't we all feel alienated and wouldn't it be nice to live with a small group of people like they did back in the day.' I only came in after a few people had a chance to speak and ask questions as I didn't want to dominate the discussion as someone else's meeting. We had an email and Anarchistnews exchange in advance of the meeting and I had offerered to debate him but although he at first seemed keen (indeed demanding) he then emailed me that I could only speak from the floor. Zerzan uses gmail which has the rather odd consequence that he now pops up in my chat list when he comes online, which seems to happen often enough.

I bascially reminded people that many of us in the city fled modern villages because actually small communities were often stultifying as they tendto police deviance of any sort very hard.  I also said that arguments of just what life was like about in 100,000 BC were a bit of a dead end as ironically enough you were relying on a modern technological interpreation of what was very limited evidence.  The core problem with Primitivism remained the question of what happened to the 99% of the population that the earth could not support if we returned to hunter gather society and even if that was magically to happen what was to stop me or anyone else re-inventing the wheelbarrow. The two of us went back and forth for a while, in particular as he repeatedly tired to claim I thought current society was fine and I had to repeatedly point out this wasn't the case.  This seems to be a standard tactic, the other one he deployed repeatedly was that only primmos are critical of technology.  I pointed out that mainsteam papers were full of 'are video games making our children violent' and 'Koreans being treated for Facebook addiction' type stories.

I reproduce the indymedia article on Satruday's protest below.  All in all it was a poor start to a weekend but that's OK, it brightened up considerably after that.

Protest at Mountjoy for Maura Harrington

Dublin Shell to Sea organised a protest at Mountjoy prison Friday night after receiving the news that Shell to Sea campaigner Maura Harrington had been arrested for non payment of fines and was on her way to the prison for the 5th time in two years. Some 40-50 people turned up on a few hours notice including a contingent from the Critical Mass cycle that was taking place.

In what is hardly a coincidence Shell have sent letters to residents of the local area, warning them that drilling works are about to start in Sruwaddacon Estuary. It is a feature of the campaign that Gardai often find reasons to arrest prominent campaigners whenever Shell needs to start work.

Terence Conway a Shell to Sea spokesperson from the area commented that the “jailing is purely and simply timed to help Shell to undertake their destructive drilling in Sruwaddacon. The dangers we've seen very clearly with the Deepwater Horizon spill, as well as the giveaway of Ireland's natural resources, are the reasons why three campaigners are now stuck in prison. Maura Harrington has been a resolute opponent to Shell, and it is clear to everyone in this area that the Gardai have gone out of their way to persecute her because she has been such an effective campaigner.”

A picket was maintained at the front gates of the prison for over an hour, watched from across the road by a couple of car loads of secret police. Between September 2006 and December 2009 some 12.6 million euro was spent suppressing protest in Erris on police overtime and expenses alone (ie excluding the normal wages).


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