Harassment of éirígí activists in the Newry area has gone into overdrive in recent times and, once again, local activists were subjected to a humiliating and aggressive ordeal at the hands of the political police last night [Tuesday].
At the time, the activists were, ironically, erecting posters highlighting the unchanged nature of British policing in Ireland when they were stopped by a PSNI patrol in Bridge Street in the town.
The PSNI used sections 21 & 24 of the British government’s Justice & Security Act to detain the activists, who then had their personal details recorded. One activist was also questioned regarding other members of his family and his activities with éirígí; he rightfully protested against these questions being asked and refused to answer them.
As the activists were being interrogated, another PSNI patrol arrived at the scene, heavily armed with assault rifles. The men were then forced at gunpoint to line up with their hands raised above their heads, whilst other members of the political police aggressively searched them for “munitions, transmitters, and wireless apparatus”. For the duration of the search, the other PSNI officers had their assault rifles aimed squarely at the activists.
The search took place in full view of pedestrians and dozens of passing motorists, many of whom slowed down to see why the PSNI had three men with their arms raised above their heads at gunpoint in the centre of Newry.
Two of the activists were then threatened and told they were being arrested and would be taken to Antrim ‘serious crime suite’ for further questioning, the PSNI claiming they needed to “further ascertain their identities”, despite the fact they had been stopped and searched before, as recently as two weeks ago. The activists protested against the threat of arrest and cited they were well within their rights to be doing what they were doing and had answered the questions they were obliged to answer.
This whole episode lasted roughly 40 minutes and, by this time, a large crowd of locals had gathered to see what the commotion was about; once the locals realised what was happening they challenged the PSNI as to why they were harassing the activists and demanded that they be allowed to go about their business. One of the passers-by even asked for some of posters the activists had so he could distribute them in his own area. This deterred the PSNI and, embarrassed, they let the activists go.
Rúnaí ginearálta éirígí Breandán Mac Cionnaith said: “When the British government suspended the use of Section 44 of its ‘Terrorism Act’, éirígí alerted people to the prospect of the PSNI simply switching to the use of other repressive legislation. This has, depressingly, come to pass.
“We would like to take this opportunity to commend the good people of Newry for standing by our activists and for publicly challenging the PSNI. This is particularly welcome at a time when any public opposition to the status quo in the Six Counties is deemed as suspect by the powers that be.
Mac Cionnaith continued: “It is evident that the PSNI fears éirígí and are worried about the message we are spreading when they have to harass, threaten and intimidate political activists at gunpoint for putting up posters. Last night’s incident is evidence that our activism is having an impact, in Newry and elsewhere.
“All the harassment in the world will not deter us from our legitimate political activities – we will continue to highlight the unchanged nature of PSNI and its role in protecting the British occupation.”
If anyone is subjected to similar harassment at the hands of the PSNI, we would advise them to contact their solicitor without delay to log the incident.