This morning (Wednesday) in Belfast, Rab Jackson, the national vice-chairperson of the socialist republican party éirígí, was arrested by the PSNI and taken to Maghaberry Prison.
Jackson was arrested by the PSNI on a street near his home.
Two years ago, Rab Jackson had participated in a sit-down protest organised by residents of the Ardoyne area of north Belfast to oppose unwelcome, provocative and sectarian parades in the area. In 2011, thirty of those who participated in the residents’ protest at Ardoyne were convicted by a Belfast court for opposing the Orange Order.
Although the protest took place in July 2010, it wasn’t until six months later that summonses were handed out by the PSNI. It was obvious this was a political decision aimed at punishing the Ardoyne residents and their supporters for having the audacity to object to the open sectarianism of the Orange Order.
Jackson, like many others, has refused to pay fines imposed upon them for participating in what was a legitimate, peaceful protest – a form of protest deemed perfectly acceptable and normal in many countries.
The arrest of Rab Jackson is the latest incident in an ongoing campaign by authorities in both the Six and Twenty-Six county states to suppress and disrupt the party.
In recent months, a number of éirígí members, including the party chairperson, Brian Leeson, have been arrested and detained.
Several party members, including one elected councillor, have already been imprisoned on both sides of the border for participating in anti-government protests.
One Newry party member was recently arrested and imprisoned for taking photographs of the PSNI harassing people involved in a roadside picket.
Another Dublin party member is facing charges of “causing criminal damage” to a car belonging to a minister of the Twenty Six County government. That farcical charge relates to a recent anti-austerity protest when the ministerial car was struck by an egg – the damage allegedly amounted to €9; the cost of washing the car!
Across the country, many éirígí activists and supporters have reported that they are being subject to ever-increasing harassment by the PSNI in the Six Counties and the Gardaí in the Twenty-Six Counties. At least one internationally respected human rights organisation has started to monitor this state harassment of the party.
Speaking in the aftermath of this morning’s arrest, éirígí general secretary Breandán Mac Cionnaith said, “It is very obvious that police forces in both partition states have been given some sort of political direction to initiate a co-ordinated campaign of harassment against party members and supporters. It could well be their assessment that the various campaigns and the extensive local activism which our members are involved in are having an impact.
“However, this campaign of harassment and arrests will not deter our party members and our supporters from continuing with their activism, nor will it disrupt the party in any way. In fact, it will have the reverse effect – it will encourage our members to continue and increase the levels of political work that they are engaged in on a daily basis.”
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