Irish Republican News · October 14, 2010
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
PSNI harass political activists

Republican activists were subjected to a humiliating and aggressive ordeal at the hands of the PSNI on Tuesday night, according to éirígí.

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.

The 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, apparently 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.

MacCionnaith said the harassment was just one of a number of incidents in recent weeks and months. Other examples included homes being raided, activists’ relatives and friends being stopped and forced out of vehicles to be searched and questioned, activists being harassed whilst delivering leaflets, members being surrounded at gunpoint under the British government’s ‘Terrorism Act’ and, now, activists being harassed whilst putting posters up.

“This is a perfect example of political policing in action,” he said. “It is clear that our activists are being harassed because of their political activity.”

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