Operation Sledging

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A policing operation in Derry in which two Creggan women were assaulted by the PSNI as part of a day of state violence has drawn intense criticism.

Several examples of police brutality emerged during the course of Thursday following an invasion of the Ballymagowan area of Creggan by several PSNI vehicles as part of what they called ‘Operation Ledging’.

More than 20 armoured vehicles and over a hundred PSNI members were involved in the operation, which began just after 6am on the morning after St Patrick’s Day.

There were several clashes between local residents and the PSNI in the area throughout Thursday. In one incident, two local women were set upon by several PSNI members and one was violently slammed and pinned to the ground with punches and kicks before being handcuffed. A video of the incident later appeared on social media.

One of the women involved later explained that she was attacked by the PSNI after she sought to protect her daughter who had been pushed against a jeep. She was left with bruising to her arms and stomach.

Thursday’s operation began with a major invasion and search of a family home in which hundreds of items were seized. The back door of the house was smashed off its hinges and the property ransacked from top to bottom in front of terrified children.

After several hours, the raid ended when the distressed mother was told the PSNI did not even know what items had been taken, as there were “too many” to record.

The force then turned their attention to the neighbours outside, resulting in two local men being assaulted and detained, with one requiring hospital treatment.

The disorder caused by the operation lasted for almost 12 hours and resulted in rioting by local youths in which two petrol bombs were thrown.

It followed a St Patrick’s Day which saw riot police deployed to enforce social distancing in a park in north Belfast as nationalists there celebrated the national day.

In an unusual statement, two Derry-based social enterprises, Creggan Neighbourhood Partnership and Creggan Enterprises, have expressed their anger at policing in the city. They called on civic leaders and politicians to demand an independent investigation into the PSNI’s actions.

Sinn Féin Assembly member in Derry, Karen Mullan, said only that she would “raise concerns directly with the PSNI”. Saoradh called on Sinn Féin to “publicly explain” why it would not repudiate the PSNI’s actions.

“This mediocre and now common rhetoric is churned out every time Crown Forces target the homes of Republican activists, however nothing has changed,” they said.

“Crown Forces continue with their vindictive and punitive actions as they continue to physically attack residents and members of working class communities.”

Local independent councillor Gary Donnelly warned any attempt at further reforms of the PSNI, previously known as the RUC, are futile. He said much of its activities and budget are controlled by British intelligence services.

“Fake bodies like the policing board and the Ombudsman are designed to give the impression that it can be accountable,” he said.

“The reality is that whilst there is British parliamentary control over the Six Counties, any police force operating here will be duty bound to carry out Westminster’s writ using draconian legislation and Diplock [non-jury] courts.

“Nationalists who have pledged support to this force and tell us that it is reformed or can be reformed are fooling no one but themselves.”

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