The guard grabbed the protestor’s head in two hands. Then he smacked the lad’s head into the wall so hard an electrical socket came out.

This happened at the South Dublin County Council building two nights ago when the guards went in heavy. Twenty or thirty people were disrupting the council meeting in protest at the Property Tax, something that sickened the Fine Gael and Labour councillors with their suited-and-manicured, right honourable douchebag understanding of democracy.

RTE news interviewed some of the excited councillors outside one part of the building and they described their ordeal. It must have been around the same time, around the other side of the building, that lads were being led out in handcuffs just for taking pictures on their phones, one of them semi-conscious from a vicious beating.

Power makes assholes

When people heard about this a lot of them would tell their own Garda story. It made me remember some old stories myself. I used to believe that generally speaking “the shades are sound”. Of course not every guard is arrogant or thuggish. Maybe even the majority are grand. I don’t know, and the question is irrelevant. It’s an institution that puts a small number of men and women into uniforms and demands that they watch, regulate, discipline and punish most of society, primarily the poor and turn to non-white-collar crime, and also those who try, through organisation and protest, to end poverty.

When a person is put in a uniform and told to regulate and to discipline another, the one in the uniform naturally develops a contempt and hatred for the one in civvies. Look up the Stanford Prison Experiment.

The state gives the Guards power so they can contain the chaos that inevitably flows from inequality and the unaccountable power of big business – and under austerity policies, it gives them more powers as it takes away their resources. The job becomes more frustrating and the Guard has more scope to vent that frustration.

And of course, the state needs its solid core of pure assholes, heavies who like violence. The other night the most violent guard was a huge bald lad in a blue hoodie. He was in plain clothes and was utterly unrestrained.

Police Stories

I want to keep these general comments to a minimum because someone with more inside knowledge of the Guards would probably laugh at me if I tried to be too insightful about something I don’t know loads about. What I do know is what I’ve seen and heard, and I’m fairly sheltered to be honest.

A year or so ago, a lad I know was picked up with a tiny bit of weed on him. He says the guards threatened to lock him up if he didn’t start informing on the various political groups he was involved with. He refused and he says they hounded him then, arresting him anytime they saw him on a protest, until he eventually left the country.

Another lad I know was driving in his van in his own estate. Two Guards stopped him and started demanding to know what he was doing there. He was after dropping his Dad home, that was all, but he reckons the Guards thought he was a traveller, and for the guards it logically followed that he was up to something. When he got sick of their questioning and reached for his keys, he got pepper=sprayed in the face then smacked on the top of the head.

A guy I know gave some money to Sinn Féin in the early 1990s. The Guards showed up at his house when he was at work, plainclothes lads, just to creep out his wife by talking to her and showing her how much they knew about the family.

There was some minor trouble down at Occupy Dame Street in October 2011, when the protest was still of a decent size and somewhat exciting. A guy climbed a tree and said he was going to jump. When he finally came down the Guards suddenly piled in, shoving people, grabbing people and throwing them around. You got the feeling they’d been watching this camp for weeks now, just looking for an excuse to charge in and batter someone.

Back in November 2010 there was a massive student demo – 30 or 40,000 people came out protesting against fees. Twenty or so of them tried to stage a peaceful occupation of the Department of Finance. The cops came in and turfed them out of it and a crowd gathered. A big solid line of Guards in horses closed in on the crowd. Some eejit threw a placard at the horses. Then it started. The Guards, or horse and on foot, imposed a collective, violent punishment on everyone who was squeezed into that narrow street. Passers-by were just caught up in it. The Guards slowly beat their way through the crowd then charged, Lord of the Rings style, down the top end of Stephen’s Green, big dogs on chains following them.

Meanwhile another massive squadron of mounted cops came down to Leinster House where there was a peaceful sit-in of one or two hundred students in the middle of the road blocking traffic. This time they didn’t need to draw any blood because news had come of what they’d done to the others. A few hard cases grabbed the cops’ own barriers and dragged them across the street to block the cops, but there were only a few of them and they were grabbed.

A woman I know took a clumsy turn on the road, was stopped by the Guards and, even though she’d just had a hot whiskey and was way under the limit, they cuffed her and brought her in, locking her in a cell for a while. When she protested they told her to sober up. The next day the incident, skewed to make it look like the woman had been arrested for drunk driving, was on the front page of three or four newspapers. This woman was Clare Daly, the ULA TD. A few weeks earlier, she’d exposed abuse of the penalty points system by Guards. For months she’d been a very prominent pro-choice activist and legislator.

There’s a video on Youtube of Guards beating, chasing, batoning and tormenting a busker in Temple Bar, for no apparent reason. There are stories in the papers about cover-ups of hit-and-runs, of Guards beating people senseless in their own homes. I have never made it down to Rossport but anyone who has can tell you some stories.

Don’t let them get away with it

To most people from other countries reading this, you’d probably shake your head in wonder that I’m even bothering to mention these incidents. They’re tame as hell by the standards of most of the world. In Greece last year a few young anarchists were arrested, tortured, beaten, stripped naked, photographed and threatened by pro-Golden Dawn cops. Americans would probably kill to have only relatively mild Irish cops to deal with.

But that’s exactly my point. Let’s keep em that way. Let’s march, protest and make legal complaints whenever they step over the line. We need to hold that line, or else they’ll shift it. What seems shocking today might be everyday stuff tomorrow if we’re complacent about what we let the guards get away with.

The state is acting as a kind of a colonial agent for banks and finance houses, bleeding us dry through cuts and new taxes to bail out a system that was never going to work. There has been resistance and there will be more developed and widespread resistance. The guards are trying to create a new normal for vicious behaviour, which will weigh against us in future struggles if we let them get away with it.

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