AH, Baile Átha Cliath
The recent shooting of George Nkencho has re-started the debate regarding Black Lives Matter, racism, the role of the Gardaí and all lives/white lives matter. The Connolly Youth Movement has had a few members attend the recent solidarity vigils and many of us have posted extensively on social media on the subject already. In writing this slightly extended piece, commentary will be provided on a few pertinent subjects that have arisen.
1. The Gardaí are not friends of the working class.
From Shell to Sea, to baton charging students, to arresting water charge activists and the century long anti-Republican campaigns, the Gardaí are the police force of the Fine Gael-Fianna Fail establishment. They are stacked with obedient servants that are handpicked based on allegiance. Their role in relation to politics has always been to smash any organisation of the working class. As I write this, the head of the Gardaí is an MI5 agent. Go figure.
Someone being dragged by their hair during the 2010 protests against student fees increases and cuts to educational funding. Clearly, the Gardaí will go to nearly any length to defend the status quo.
2. Even in a liberal democracy, due process is still required.
It is horrible that somebody was injured by George, but the fact is that a broken nose does not carry the death sentence in Ireland. Wielding a knife does not either and the point is that it is for a Judge and a jury to determine guilt and sentencing. Shooting at somebody should be the final and last resort. Therefore, the very legitimate question of excessive force has been raised here. Conflicting accounts of the incident cast aspersions on the narrative portrayed by the Gardaí. Beyond that, we should question what happened anyway. The Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act of 1997 outlines the offences and punishments for assaulting somebody or causing them injury. Fines and imprisonment are the punishments, not the death penalty. In fact, capital punishment was abolished in 1990, which means that there is no punishment that can lead to death. The point of outlining this is to state that the death of somebody, be they criminally convicted or not – is truly a final and last resort.
3. The investigation will determine the truth…
We have seen how the State investigates itself. The investigation into the shooting, like into other questionable incidents revolving around the conduct of the Gardaí conduct will either acquit those who performed the shooting or see somebody sacrificed, but structurally, the Garda will remain the same. They will keep stopping and searching young people in working class estates. They will continue actively harassing members of the travelling community and their reputation will continue to deteriorate in the eyes of many communities in Ireland.
Unless pressure is applied through protest, petition and social media, then the investigation will go away like many other internal investigations.
4. The far right has flooded social media.
Whether you trust the police or the judges, whether you see yourself in a certain political entity, the fact is far right’s misinformation has plagued social media. Fake accounts (which seem to be largely American) have come onto Irish social media and begun, in a coordinated fashion, to spin the exact same narrative that they spin in America.
“He had it coming”.
“He was a criminal”.
“The response of his friends and community is over the top”.
On and on it goes.
The image purporting to show criminal convictions has been pulled out of thin air yet shared around as if it is true. It has no sources, so it is basically completely unverifiable. Even if he had prior convictions, this does not translate into an automatic death sentence. There are plenty of people on social media sharing the image around/supporting the Gardaí who have prior convictions. Should they be shot dead in their next encounter with the Garda?
The response of his friends, family and community is completely reasonable.
5. It is both a working-class issue and a racial issue.
Chief among the arguments being peddled is that this is not a racial issue. That the Gardaí would have shot George if he was a white man. Examples of the Gardaí not shooting white people in situations that were markedly worse exist. The two chief ones that are worth noting is when all Citywest was put under lockdown when a man went on a rampage with a machine gun. The second one is when a young man charged into the Dáil with a sword, claiming that he wanted to start a one man uprising. Both are still alive, and the situation was resolved on both occasions. In fact, there are hundreds of articles out there showing examples where the situation was resolved without having to shoot somebody dead.
Perhaps instead of sending the ERU (Emergency Response Unit) to confront somebody that was highly distressed and agitated they could have sent negotiators. Perhaps George could still be alive and if he did indeed perform criminal acts, he could have gone before a court and be tried as anybody should. But we will never know because the Gardaí fired five times and fatally wounded him.
The issue of racialised policing is not as accentuated as it is in America because Ireland, unlike America, was not founded by slave owners and slave traders. Nevertheless, polling regarding how Garda feel about the travelling community reveals deep discriminatory beliefs. What would polling reveal if questions about the Black Irish community were asked? What kind of views do Garda have on young black men in Ireland? Where is the justice for other young men like Terrence-Wheelock?
6. What about white lives? Don’t’ all lives matter?
Of course, they do, but the activists who support or advocate for Black Lives Matter are not suggesting otherwise. What they are doing is highlighting the fact that there is a disproportionate amount of racism, institutional and cultural towards their communities and that this racism must be actively challenged by everybody.
My observation on the ‘All Lives Matter’ crowd is that they do nothing for the homeless, for the hungry or for those being oppressed by the state. They only seem to manifest themselves as a contrarian force engaging in doublethink. They say ‘All Lives Matter’ but that is not true, because if it were, the ‘All Lives Matter’ types would be engaged with activism that helps all people.
In a conversation with a relative, she pointed out how Eastern Europeans were being sex trafficked and that nobody was discussing this subject, only Black Lives Matter. The point I made in response and the point I will make here is straightforward. The All Lives Matter people will never lift a finger to help people who are being trafficked, because they are not there to help. They are there to attack other groups like Black Lives Matter. Secondly, the politicisation of certain issues and their entering into the mainstream means that people engage with certain subjects more than others at any given time. Finally, most individuals are considered about a plethora of overlapping and cross connected issues, to care for something does not exclude interest or care in another subject.
As outlined by my comrade in a previous piece on the role of the police in a capitalist – colonial setting is to crush all dissent; in whatever way it manifests. The criminalisation of young men in working class communities takes on a racial element when these young men are not white. This is done because it allows for the skewering of the narrative along American lines and this is how the far right have been trying to frame the debate here in Ireland. It is not even subtle. The closure of Blanchardstown shopping centre for a short while because of a protest is not as big a deal as it is made out to be. Get over it.
It is ironic to see, those claiming the Garda did not do what they did because of race, to then turn around and talk of deporting all the African gangs and go on long winded rants about asylum seekers taking their jobs and getting social welfare. Makes it all obvious enough that it is a racial issue for many of the people behind the fake profiles. Finally – much has been said of George’s brother giving a speech about finding the Garda that shot his brother. In my opinion, this is an understandable response to having your brother shot dead by the police.