A talk about the development & future of the campaign against water charges, a mass campaign of resistance to privitisation of water and an austerity tax that has emerged in southern Ireland involving hundreds of thousands of people.
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After weeks of Garda provocation, and just after Garda beat protesters with batons someone finally snapped and threw a single brick back. When a politician as unpopular as Joan Burton uses dozens of riot police to force her way into and out of one of the most deprived communities in the state, what should be expected but angry protest. And when at a moment of unprecedented popular mobilisation those same Garda pull pepper spray & batons for use against water charge resistors what is a single brick bouncing off a car in response.
Almost two years after Shell smuggled their Tunnel Boring Machine out of Dublin port in the middle of the night, and then spent 3 days meeting resistance across the country before getting stuck in the bog, they removed it from Erris Monday night.
The first direct actions of the Erris struggle against Shell took place 8 years ago when 6 locals were injuncted and then 5 of them jailed for refusing to allow Shell onto their lands. In the 8 years that have passed there have been countless direct actions, dozens of arrests, about two dozen jailings and hundreds of people attacked by Garda or Shell's security company IRMS. But as the first two days of the week of action demonstrated that intense level of repression over so many years has yet to end effective resistance.
The second day of the week of action saw an unexpected success when Shell to Sea campaigners managed to breach Shells fortified compound and force security to retreat to the inner compound. While this happened much of the equipment, in particular the spy cameras, in the outer compound was damaged or destroyed.
This morning (Sat 22 June) around 50 Shell to Sea campaigners kicked off the Week of Action against Shell's experimental high pressure gas pipe in Erris by tearing up the bog road Shell has laid as part of its attempt to finish the pipeline. They also destroyed the sandbag dam that Shell were attempting to build across part of the estuary in order to be able to work on the pipeline route regardless of the tides. This was accomplished in full view of about 15 security from IRMS - the security company hired by Shell to repress protest.
In what has to be one of its odder decisions Morning Ireland this morning decided that the best voice of opposition to the Property Tax was obviously someone from Finna Fail the political party who began the process of bringing the tax in. The property tax was part of the package of cuts Finna Fail agreed with the Trokia while in government. To most people the more obvious voice of opposition would certainly be the mass campaign of some 50% of households that has refused to pay the Household Charge, the fore runner of the property tax. That campaign also brought thousands of people to protest outside the Fine Gael ard fheis.
A huge secretive Garda security operation Sunday night swung into operation in Dublin Port as Shell's Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) left the port as part of a huge convoy of Garda vehicles. News of the operation had leaked at the last minute meaning that with only an hours notice a handful of Shell to Sea campaigners managed to get down to the port entrance despite the pouring rain. Most of us were pulled over and questioned by Garda at least once and the Garda helicopter stayed overhead as various Garda vehicles including a van load of riot cops with the door open drove past us repeatedly.
In a new twist to the decade long struggle against Shell Rossport Solidarity Camp has revealed that Mayo County Council (MCC) has issued an eviction notice to the landowner of the field where the Rossport Solidarity Camp is located. Mayo farmer Gerry Burke has been threatened with fines of over €12,000 and two years in prison. Despite these theats the annual June Bank Holiday solidarity gathering will go ahead in a couple of weeks.
Saturdays Household tax demonstration in Galway at the Labour Party conference saw angry scenes after Garda attempted to keep the protesters out of sight and sound from the conference venue. Students who were being kept off their own campus were particularly annoyed and led a push against the Garda barriers during which several of them were attacked with pepper spray. They did however succeed in removing the barriers with the result that around 1,000 of the 4,000 or so Household tax demonstrators were able to march to the door of the conference center to protest in full sight of the Labour party delegates inside.
A number of WSM members were present at the protest, either with their various local Household tax delegations or with FEE, the student group. One of them was among the people pepper sprayed. We asked them to give us their accounts of what happened on the day.
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