More than 5,000 people gathered on the streets of Dublin on Monday afternoon as demonstrations too place around the world in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter campaign.
Hundreds carried signs calling for an end to racism and an end to ‘direct provision’, the use of prison-style accommodation to house asylum seekers in the 26 Counties.
The impromptu grassroots protests across Ireland were overwhelmingly attended by young people, and the size of the demonstrations took authorities by surprise.
The killing of George Floyd in the US appeared to unleash pent-up frustration and a demand for change. “I don’t think everyone is out because of that one incident,” said one protestor. “It’s just the build up of it.”
Lawson Mpame, who walked at the head of the protest in Dublin, said he felt “frustrated and angry” by the killing of black people in the US and that he was “sick of the injustice” towards black people around the world.
Many Irish people still refuse to accept racism is a problem in this country, he said.
“They think we’re just making it up but I’ve experienced it at first hand, my family has experienced it and my friends too. We want people to listen to us and understand the frustrations we go through.
“Being black in Ireland should mean being part of the Irish community but sometimes we feel like we’re not actually part of this community. It feels like we’re second-class citizens and we don’t have the same rights as you guys. That has to change and that needs to start now.”
There were calls on the Taoiseach to address the issue of racism in Ireland and to call out discrimination many black-Irish people suffer.
Judy Ehiguese and her sister Tessy, originally from Nigeria but both living in Dublin, said there was “silent racism” in Ireland.
“It’s not spoken about here because it’s not as serious as what you see in America where people are shot or killed,” said Judy. “It hides in the bushes and the trees here; it’s silent.”
In Belfast, more than 1,000 people took part in an energetic Black Lives Matter protest in the city centre. Demonstrators chanted, knelt and held aloft hundreds of placards, and several black demonstrators made impromptu speeches to the crowd.
Crowds chanted “No justice, no peace” and “I can’t breathe” and repeatedly called out Mr Floyd’s name. They also targeted British PM Boris Johnson and US President Donald Trump with chants.
As the protest took place, a new mural of ‘Black Lives Matter’ was being painted at the International Wall on the Falls Road.
In Derry, a protest took place at Free Derry Corner and was well attended. However, an attempt to paint a mural led to the the arrest of one of the socialist activists involved.
The artists said the PSNI had turned CCTV cameras to monitor their work, and one of their number was later stopped and arrested by the PSNI. They confiscated all his painting materials.
“They had received no complaints or reports regarding the painting,” the IRSP said. “This was confirmed when the owner of the wall, where the mural was painted on contacted them to say that the artists had been given their permission to use it”.
“The irony is clear to see. The people of Derry know only too well what African American communities are facing now in the US.”