Occupy protesters vow to step up their campaign

Members of the Occupy Dame St protest last night converged once more on Dublin’s Central Bank with the intention of resurrecting the camp which had been dismantled by gardaí earlier in the day.

Gardaí moved in to remove the shelters at the camp at 3.30am yesterday with one protester arrested on a public order offence.

Some protesters alleged that excessive force was used by gardaí..

Those involved in the demonstration also questioned the legality of the camp’s removal, which is understood to have taken place under the Housing Act 2002.

One protester, Steven Bennett, said his daughter, also a member of the camp, “was thrown around the place by the guards” and solicitors had been contacted.

Following a general assembly of protesters at 6pm last night, up to 50 of the group went to Pearse St Garda Station to protest and demand the return of belongings which had been seized during the earlier operation. Steven Bennett said a senior officer told them the items, including laptops, could not be returned until next week, though there were reports that gardaí did offer to return goods within an hour on production of proof of ownership but the protestors refused to wait.

A group then headed back to the Central Bank location. Steven Bennett said they would try to resurrect the camp and if they were prevented would take their sleeping bags and lie under the overhang of a bank building.

The Garda operation came after appeals from local traders for the camp, first set up last October, to cease operating. Tourism Minister Leo Varadkar had also asked for the camp to move elsewhere in time for the St Patrick’s Day parade.

Early yesterday up to 100 gardaí from city centre stations moved in on the camp and removed 15 protesters.

The area was cordoned off and gardaí removed the shelters, with water hoses used to clear the area. The material was then placed in three lorries provided by Dublin City Council, who removed it from Dame St.

Advertisements had beenrun in the national press regarding the plan to close off streets in Dublin for the St Patrick’s Day Parade.

Dame St is on the route and the grand marshall of this year’s parade, former footballer and pundit John Giles, voiced concerns over the camp and the image it might give the city.

Garda Superintendent Joseph Gannon of Pearse St Station had written to the protesters asking them to vacate the area outside the Central Bank to ensure the parade could pass peacefully.

Vanessa O’Sullivan of the Occupy Cork camp off the city’s South Mall said they had received no correspondence from Cork City Council asking them to move ahead of the St Patrick’s Day Parade.

A general assembly will be held at the camp on Sunday to decide whether to continue with the camp or to move. Four people are currently staying at the camp with up to 25 other people visiting regularly.

Cork City Councillor Emmet O’Halloran of Fine Gael has tabled a motion for next Monday’s meeting asking that the Occupy Cork camp be vacated.

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