An Garda Síochána has defended its clashes with anti-mask protesters in Dublin this week.
The Garda Commissioner said gardaí prevented a ‘frightening stampede up Grafton Street’ on Thursday in which eleven people were arrested for public order offences.
Gardaí are investigating the gathering and are seeking to identify the organiser of the event.
Commissioner Drew Harris denied gardaí were ‘heavy-handed’ in dealing with the protesters and said the Garda Public Order Unit were deployed in ‘soft cap’ mode in support of uniform colleagues.
Nine people were charged with public order offences, while two protesters were given ‘adult cautions.’
Organisers of large-scale events can be punished under current Covid-19 regulations, however, according to the Commissioner, it is often unclear who the organisers of such events are.
‘With these protests, there is no organiser. What we see is covert arranging of protests. We have no one to negotiate with and their actual protest outcomes are not lawful purposes for their activity. Regrettably, these groups have shown a propensity to violence. All of these matters are matters which move it from the policing of the Covid-19 restrictions into public order legislation.’
Gardaí used public order legislation to prevent what would have been a very frightening stampede up Grafton Street. Drew Harris said Grafton Street is ‘a tight enough pedestrian street and that can’t be allowed to happen. There was no heavy-handedness on our part. Our response was proportionate to what we thought were the public order threats.’