Karen Eliot | 12.05.2004 14:14 | May Day 2004
I retreated from the front line realising my camera was useless in the wet. When i later checked the footage i realised i had not filmed any of this at all and only thought that i had.
One thing that i saw with my own eyes but did not get on film was a bottle which landed and smashed on a garda head. This was before (i can't remember at exactly which point) the riot police were brought in. From where i was standing the gardai were well behaved and nonviolent in their approach, it was the riot police who were bashing people with their batons. I was at the meeting the night before where it was decided that nothing should be thrown over the heads of people into the police lines. So who then threw the bottle? I believe it was most likely thrown by a local who joined in the rally on the way.
We did attract a lot of locals along the way during the 'reclaim the city' action an overwhelming positive day of action. The more who join in the better however many of them were drinking which is not a good idea when facing a potential conflict zone.
On the way to phoenix park i saw a man wearing a black balaclava carrying a plastic bag of beer. He was with his mates, also drinking but not hooded up. None of these people were part of the black bloc. When some demonstrators gathered and yelled at some gardai who were filming us he ran up to the group saying something to his mates like, 'look a potential flash-point' giving the impression he was in it purely for confrontation.
Another incident which i did not see but was told about was someone at the front line of garda who was slapping them in the face. The garda did not strike back to their credit. I met someone who had coincidently met this person before the day. He was not part of any organising collectives. She asked him what he was protesting about (as she wanted to know more about the EU herself) to which he replied that he wanted to slap a few garda. Consequently his face appeared in much of the corporate media.
In many ways the corporate media itself must bear some responsibility for this after its campaign of hype misinformation and utter lies. By ignoring covering any of the issues people are demonstrating against and building it into a confrontation with the police, of course those who are inclined towards football hooliganism might get attracted.
At the end of the day though, the media scare campaign should be of no surprise as it is nothing new. It is just something activists must find ways of dealing with.
Whatever 'violence' may have been directed at the police on the day it in no way justified the reaction of the riot police, the cracking of skulls, the breaking of limbs of random individuals as well as random unprovoked arrests.
I completely support the attempt of the black bloc to break police lines even if on some level it was never likely to achieve much more than symbolic action. After walking for two hours it would be a complete anticlimax not to do so. It would be pretty much impossible to gain access to the ministers with the amount demonstrators against a multimillion dollar police operation - with plenty more surprises for us up their sleeves if opportunity presented itself. The breaking of police lines however demonstrates on some level the undemocratic nature of the EU which makes decisions which affect us all.