DUBLIN'S Civil Rights march, held to demonstrate solidarity with the Newry march, ended in violence on Saturday when marchers and Gardaí fought a 15-minute pitched battle near the British Embassy in Merrion Square and later clashed again at a meeting in Middle Abbey Street.
Flashpoint for the violence was the Embassy where the marchers, about 600 strong, came face-to-face with a cordon of Gardaí ringing the approach to the Embassy. There march organiser Basil Miller called for a sit-down protest but a group of about 30 young men, who had marched behind the banner of the Young Socialists, surged forward and attempted to break through the cordon.
The Garda cordon, about 200 in number, stood firm and the violent group, chanting "Gardaí -- R.U.C.", were then set upon by marshals and organisers preaching non-violence. Undeterred and ignoring the appeal to retreat, the group renewed their attacks and a fist-fight with Gardaí ensued. This lasted for about ten minutes.
At one stage the Garda cordon was fronted by a cordon of the march organisers and marshals but the latter soon retreated as they came under fire also.
Organiser Basil Miller told the fighting mob: "This is a Civil Rights march, not a slagging match. If you use any violence you will discredit the Newry march."
He was promptly set upon by a youth who had removed his heavy boots to use as cudgels against the cordon, but the youth was quickly surrounded and beaten to the ground.
The Young Socialists group were obviously bent on creating trouble. During the march from Parnell Square they had been towards the rear of the parade, but when the marchers reached the Embassy they rushed to the front ranks and attacked the cordon.
One of them grabbed the crowd hailer from Mr. Miller and urged the marchers to charge the gardaí. "There's no difference between them and the R.U.C. They will be enforcing the Criminal Justice Baill against people like us if it becomes law," he urged before he was overpowered.
Before the outbreak of the violence a two-man deputation had been allowed through the cordon to register with officials their protest against the behaviour of the RU.C. during the Civil Rights march to Derry last week-end.
When the march was eventually re-started the organisers decided not to proceed to the Department of the Taoiseach in Merrion Street where they had planned to hold a protest meeting. Instead they returned to the city centre and joined a meeting of the Dublin Housing Action Committee in Middle Abbey Street.
The march was organised by the Students for Democratic Action and its aim was to draw attention "to the lack of civil rights in the Republic". Students and young workers took part in the march, which ignored the conventional route through O'Connell St., Dawson St., and St. Stephen's Green. Instead they marched via Gardiner St., Sean MacDermot St., Corporation Place, Towsend St., and Westland Row to Merrion Square. "It is the people through whose areas we marched that really need civil rights", explained one of the march organisers.