Derry; FEIC monthly vigil at Raytheon harrassed by PSNI riot squad, children videotaped


The peaceful and carnival atmosphere at yesterday evenings (Saturday 12 August) FEIC's monthly vigil in front of Raytheon was shattered when 2 landrovers full of riot gear clad PSNI de-bussed and began filming and corralling protesters.It began shortly after 5pm as the usual FEIC monthly vigils normally do, except this time with more than 20 people standing in beside the permanently dug 'grave' in front of Raytheon, which bears crosses with the words 'Fallujah 2004', 'Gaza', 'Lebanon 2006', 'Bagdad 2003'.

Soon, however, with the widespread anger over the most recent spate of Israeli war crimes and the British and Irish governments ongoing cowardice in failing to stand up to the US and the Israelis, as well as the disproportionate police and judicial response to the recent disarming of Raytheons computers, the numbers had swelled to well over 50.

It was a peace loving carnival atmosphere, a celebration of popular democracy, and the majority of people's voice being at last heard over the din of war and political double-speak. There were about 10 small children there, some as young as 2. There were civil rights veterans, university academics, artists, journalists, unemployed people, schoolteachers, pensioners, activists, computer engineers, civil servants, careworkers, mothers, fathers, grandparents. There were clowns, face painters and balloons. The children were playing with each other, running between the legs of the grown-ups, showing off their balloon-headgear.

Suddenly 2 landrovers belonging to the controversial TSGs (Tactical Support Groups - formerly the District Mobile Support Units - still under the command of the politically charged & notorious Special Branch) drove up and stopped. One of them had a roof-mounted video camera filming the crowd. Boiler-suited riot cops de-bussed from these, and two of them began filming and photographing the crowd, including the children.

When they were challenged by members of the crowd, the police became hostile, threatening to arrest people for 'obstructing police'. More boiler suited thugs de-bussed and began harrassing and corralling mambers of the crowd back onto the footpath. Someone who photographed the police with his mobile phone was threatened with arrest and the police made as if to take the phone from him. The atmosphere was shattered. Celebration gave way to fear and anger.

The parents of the smallest children made their way to their cars to leave, but not before speaking their mind to the senior officer who had just arrived, one Chief Superintendent J Kane. The question was asked under what legislation the PSNI were filming a peaceful gathering, including children, wihout their parents permission. The rest of the crowd too were uncowed and the harrassing officers were asked why they were so interested in filming children, if they were paedophiles. It was said to the PSNI that the political nature of the RUC/PSNI hadnt 'really gone away, you know'. The cops were told that their video tape would be requested under the Freedom of Information Act and thet the whole operation would be reported to the Police Ombudsman.

Eventually C Supt J Kane apologised and offered to let representatives of the vigil come to Strand Road Barracks to view the video tapes and photographs and ensure that they were wiped. The majority of the PSNI left and the small presence left made itself more discreet.

The crowd then elected to turn the monthly vigil into a weekly one, beginning next Saturday at 5.