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  • Writer's pictureIWW Ireland

Observed Garda Behaviour at recent Protests

We in the Dublin group observed Gardaí policing United Against Racism's protest on 5th February approach activists who were wearing medical masks and force them to remove their face coverings under threat of arrest.

We at the IWW are disgusted by this action. This is a deprivation of a person's right to wear whatever they want, including head scarves and face coverings. Forcing us to remove medical masks against our will takes away our right to keep ourselves safe and is unquestionably dangerous, a danger that the Gardaí caused. This is a direct attack on the disabled and the right to protest freely.

There is currently a high rate of Covid and flu in Ireland. Wearing a mask outside is not usually necessary, but when at a protest, stood packed close together with a large number of people who are chanting, shouting and singing constantly for several hours, the chances of infection increase exponentially. Gardaí even demanded that people they knew to be sick remove their masks, making the spread of infection even more likely.

There are people whose health is especially vulnerable to airborne infections and we must protect them and their right to protest. But it's not just about our disabled comrades, any of us can get sick, and we all have the right to protect our health and take measures like wearing a mask. The Gardaí allowed one disabled protestor to keep their mask on, but since everyone around them was forced to remove theirs, their health was still put in increased danger, making this concession meaningless. It only served to show that the guards had no real cause to demand the removal of covid masks.

When a protestor said they'd like to contact their solicitor, they were told that if they did so they'd be arrested.

This is a terrifying overreach of police powers. It is not illegal to wear a mask. It is not illegal to talk to a solicitor. Garda assurances that they were also taking the masks off far-right protestors were simply nonsense. Removing the rights of others does not make removing our rights any better or any more legal.

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