Date: Wed, 20 Aug 2003 17:22:28 +0100
4. Boy,12, 'Manhandled' for Speaking Irish
Aug 15 2003
From the Derry Journal (icDerry.ic)
A 12-year-old Galliagh boy has claimed he was assaulted by policemen this week simply for speaking Irish.
12-year-old Garvan Brown, from Fernabbey, claims he was set upon by the PSNI officers as he walked through the estate with his older sister on Tuesday.
A police spokesman has refuted the allegations.
The schoolboy told the 'Journal': "Two policemen were sitting in a car with the door open and another one of them was at someone's front door.
"As we walked past, one of the policemen said something and I turned and asked my sister, Kelly: "Cad é a duirt sé?' which is Irish for 'what did he say?'
"At that, the two policemen jumped out of the car and one of them said to me: 'What kind of language is that you are using?'
"They grabbed me by the arms and tried to pull me into the car. It was only when my mother came along that they let me go."
The boy's mother, Geraldine, said: "I saw one policeman trying to bend Garvan's arm up his back and I shouted at them to leave him alone. "One of the policemen said we should go to my house
to talk about it. I told him he was not going to my house. He then said it would be less embarrassing for me if we went to the house - but I refused."
The boy's father, Sean, who is secretary of the Fernabbey and Glendale Residents' Association, told the 'Journal':
"Someone told us what was happening and a few of us ran around.
"At that stage the more senior policeman seemed to have realised what was happening and told the others to stay in the car.
"They then drove away at speed. In fact, they were travelling so fast that a young boy standing at the rear of the vehicle with his hand on the aerial was pulled onto the road and the aerial broke."
Mr. brown went on: "it is an absolute disgrace that my son could be treated in this way. The only reason I can see for what happened is that he was wearing a Celtic jersey and spoke in Gaelic.
"My other daughter, Grainne, who is only six years old, was in hysterics,crying that she did not want anyone to take her brother away."
Mr. Brown said there was nothing unusual in his children speaking Irish as they both attended the local Irish language secondary school.
The 12-year-old, who had visible marks on his arm where he claimed the policeman grabbed him, said the entire incident had left him feeling "very scared and nervous."
The chairman of the Fernabbey and Glendale Residents Association, Eddie O'Neill, said: "This is an absolute disgrace. Some of us have spent a lot of time trying to persuade local youths not to get involved in incidents with the PSNI --and then they come along and attack a 12-year-old."
The PSNI issued a statement in response to the claims. It read: "Three sector police officers were carrying out routine enquiries in the Ferndale Drive area at 1 p.m. on Tuesday when they were approached by a youth who was verbally abusive and made obscene gestures at the officers."He was spoken to by the police with a view to taking his name for report to the PSNI youth diversion office so that his parents could be spoken to about his behaviour."
He refused to provide these details, used foul language and was arrested for disorderly behaviour. He resisted arrest and a crowd started to gather.
"The boy's parents arrived but refused to assist the police or provide details. A number of adult men who had arrived became very aggressive and the three officers, fearing for their safety, de-arrested the youth.
"As they were leaving the area, the police car was kicked and punched and the radio antenna was pulled off." The spokesperson added: "Anyone who feels any officer has acted improperly can refer the complaint to the Ombudsman's office.
"Sinn Fein Councillor Gerry O Heara described the PSNI's alleged actions as "disgraceful."Colr. O Heara said: "The PSNI's actions in this incident give a clear example of the problems that remain in relation to the current policing arrangements."Taunting a 12-year-old child because he was wearing a Celtic jersey, trying to arrest him because he spoke in Irish to his sister, manhandling the child and then verbally abusing him is disgraceful behaviour."
"The sectarian and racist attitudes that lie at the root of this incident have no place in this city, never mind in any 'new' policing arrangements."
He added: "The PSNI, as a direct result of their actions, managed to leave a peaceful community in complete turmoil." The upset they have caused to the boy concerned, his family and the entire Fernabbey community cannot be understated and the question for those who preach about the 'new' beginning to policing is clear - who will be held to account?"
He accused the PSNI of producing a "fictitious account" of this incident.He asked: "What are the members of the District Police Partnership Board going to do about the incident itself, and about this fictitious account?" Last night,a PSNI spokesman said he 'completely refuted' any suggestion that the incident was linked to the fact that the boy spoke in Irish or was wearing a Celtic jersey.