More than a thousand protestors gathered outside the Embassy of the United States of America in Ballsbridge on Saturday afternoon.
The protest, which was organised by Black Pride Ireland, Migrants and Ethnic-minorities for Reproductive Justice (MERJ) and the Movement of Asylum Seekers for Ireland (MASI), began at 3pm. It was organised in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in police custody to protest the racism that many minorities face in the United States, and to call for the end of Direct Provision in Ireland.
An Garda Síochána had a large presence at the protest with Gardaí positioned every 10 metres along the walls of the U.S. Embassy, as well as directing traffic away from the roads closed to facilitate the protestors. Passing cars beeped their horns to show their support for the protest after the organisers called for those unable to attend the protest in person to drive past in solidarity with posters of support in their car windows.
The press office of An Garda Síochána advised the College Tribune that they had been in contact with the organisers of the protest to inform them that the protest may potentially constitute a breach of existing social distancing regulations. This comes four days after The Irish Times revealed that there was an active investigation into the organisers of another similar protest in which thousands of protestors marched towards the U.S. Embassy.
Free personal protective equipment was distributed from the back of two vans and the organisers repeatedly reinforced the message of social distancing during the protest. Spots were chalked onto the ground by organisers to show protestors how they could maintain a safe distance between each other. The protestors’ adherence to these requests diminished as more people arrived at the embassy.
Protestors chanted “George Floyd, say his name!” and “Justice, now!” towards the U.S. Embassy, before Lucky Khambule of MASI began to address the crowd. Khambule said that he wanted to send a message of “hope and solidarity to what has happened to George [Floyd]…George lost his life in the hands of the officials that were meant to be there to protect him…His only crime was to be black.”
“Racism does exist in Ireland”, he continued, “It is that knee on our backs.” The MASI representative went on to decry the system of Direct Provision in Ireland: “I am calling on the Irish Government to end the abhorrent Direct Provision system that strips asylum seekers of their fundamental rights, privacy and privacy.”
Speaking to the Tribune, Mr. Khambule said “the message we are trying to drive home is that racism must not exist in our society. Direct Provision is another system which is designed to make sure that asylum seekers are unable to progress in life. Direct Provision must be abolished.” He also called upon a “united Ireland that says no to racism.”
Jack, a UCD student, explained why he attended the protest “personally I just want to add my presence to the social pressure going on, the bigger the crowd, the more the people in the embassy and across the ocean have to listen. […] In Ireland, I would like to see direct provision abolished, I think the allowance given to asylum seekers in direct provision is way too small to manageably do anything.”
Another UCD Student, Jacob, said that he experienced racism when he first came to Ireland and that the system of direct provision in Ireland was “inhumane and strips us minorities of our culture and our freedom. The companies that enable direct provision in Ireland are as bad as the system itself, we must boycott these companies.”
The Lord Mayor of Dublin urged people not to attend protests on Newstalk FM saying “I understand why people were angry and I understand the need to protest but we are in the middle of a pandemic and I would urge people to look at alternatives in terms of getting their message across”
An Garda Síochána said to the Tribune that “both the CMO (Chief Medical Officer) and the Minister for Health have stated that such mass gatherings should not take place as they may pose a health risk to those taking part and those that attendees have contact with after the event. In line with this, organisers of protests are being advised by Gardaí that such protests may constitute a potential breach of the regulations. As with all potential breaches of the regulations, investigating Gardaí must seek the advice of the Director of Public Prosecutions in respect of any further actions to be taken.”
Hugh Dooley – Reporter