Take back the city: hundreds protest in Dublin in support of housing occupations

Demonstrations follow evictions carried out by balaclava-clad enforcers reportedly employed by private security firm

DUBLIN was brought to a standstill on Wednesday [12 August] evening as protestors numbering in the hundreds assembled and marched in support of housing activists forcibly evicted from an occupied property earlier this week.

The protests, arranged by the Take Back the City campaign group, follow events on the night of 11 September, when a number of men wearing balaclavas, reported to be working for a private security firm, forced their way into a property on Dublin’s North Frederick Street, where dozens of activists had remained for two weeks in defiance of a High Court order to vacate.

In addition to this, a solicitor’s letter sent on 12 September instructed activists occupying a Belvedere Place property to vacate this week, arguing that the property is not compliant with fire safety regulations and warning that legal action will be taken if they do not comply.

The protests, in addition to showing solidarity with the activists, were intended to highlight Ireland’s ongoing housing crisis.

The demonstration – which reportedly included up to 1,000 protestorsbrought all traffic in Dublin’s city centre to a halt, with the march coming to a stop outside of the Belvedere Place occupation, where the demonstrators staged a sit-in, displaying pictures of the balaclava-clad eviction team with chants of “shame, shame, shame.”

READ MORE: Seize the Fees: Tenants’ union occupies landlord conference over charging of illegal fees

Irish media reported earlier that the gardai have insisted that the removal of activists from the North Frederick Street property was a “peaceful eviction”. However, the gardai have also been criticised for their involvement, as members of their public order unit – also with their faces obscured – were present while the evictions took place. Thus far, the gardai have not responded to queries regarding who specifically the balaclava-clad enforcers were working for.

Over the course of yesterday’s protest, which came to an end at approximately 8pm, five activists were arrested, with two reportedly due to appear before the Criminal Courts of Justice on 2 October.

At an earlier protest which took place outside of the North Frederick Street evictions, a further six people were arrested, with some officers employing batons against the protestors.

Amnesty International Ireland has called for an investigation into the alleged use of “excessive force” by gardai against what the campaign group described as what “appear to be largely peaceful protestors”, which the Irish Council for Civil Liberties has called for a report from Garda Commissioner Drew Harris.

The organisers of the protests have stated they aim "to continue to highlight the causes of this housing crisis, one of which is land hoarding and speculation by private owners."

In October 2017, it was revealed that Dublin residents are spending as much as 55 per cent of their income on rent. Figures from Sherry Fitzgerald, Ireland’s largest residential estate agent, showed that Dublin tenants are now experiencing a “severe burden” on their incomes, particularly in light of the fact that since 2012, the city’s rent-to-income ratio has been steadily rising.

Picture courtesy of Mic

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