Political activists in Derry occupied the local branch of the Santander bank in an action over the freezing of bank accounts and welfare benefits of those targeted by the PSNI.
Video footage uploaded to social media showed a group of young people unfurling placards both inside and outside the bank on the city’s Diamond on Tuesday afternoon.
Saoradh said it had organised the direct action in an effort to expose the tactics of political policing and the involvement of banks. They accused Santander of freezing a number of accounts of working-class families on the orders of the PSNI.
In a statement, local representative Paddy Gallagher said republican activists had “faced the wrath” of British forces “and every agency that they have weaponised.
“This includes banks, like Santander, who are willingly allowing themselves to be used as pawns by the British state.”
He said it was an ongoing tactic that has seen republicans across Ireland targeted in such a manner that it threatens their livelihoods.
“This ploy of freezing, restricting and then closing the bank accounts of republicans is part and parcel of those same tactics which are strategic and directed,” he said.
He pointed to comments just over a year ago by PSNI chief Simon Byrne, who issued a warning to republican hardliners: “You carry on doing this, we will have your house; if you keep going, we will have your car, we will have your kids, we will have your benefits and we will put you in jail.”
It wasn’t an idle threat, he said.
“While the old tactics of political policing, draconian legislation and felon setting have continued unabated, these new tools have been directed at activists and their families to literally starve them into submission.”
He noted that Santander’s motto was ‘simple, personal and fair’. “What is fair about closing a bank account of families without giving them answers?”