03 November 2010

You see a sight that almost stops your heart

From the somewhat Vanilla consensus building exercise of Claiming Our Future, Saturday then turned to the altogether tastier Oatmeal Cookie Dough of a 'Halloween Treasure Hunt" through the bankerland of D4.

Organised by the 1% Network, the event took the form of a nighttime fancy dress tour along Shrewsbury and Ailsbury Roads in Ballsbridge, starting outside AIB Headquarters, and passing by the homes of a veritable rogues' gallery of financiers, developers and speculators who made millions while bankrupting our country, including Dermot Gleeson, Paul Coulson, Derek Quinlan, Dennis O’ Brien and Bernard McNamara and others, pausing outside each home to hear a report of who they are and what they did. Outside the worst offenders' homes the organisers left a symbolic gift, a bill for unpaid taxes, a box containing the hopes and dreams of the people whose lives they have destroyed, and so on.

The 1% Network are an interesting coalition, bringing together a number of groups on the left, The Workers' Solidarity Movement, the socialist/Republican group Éirígí, the Irish Socialist Network and Seomra Spraoi (the autonomous social centre modeled on similar groups in Italy), all focused on highlighting the vast inequality in Ireland where 1% of the population holds over 34% of the nation's wealth. The problem with the Left in Ireland, indeed in almost every country, is that traditionally groups on the Left spend more time fighting each other than campaigning against inequality and capitalism. From Trotsky and Lenin to the People's Front of Judea and the Judean People's Front, as soon as any left-wing group grows beyond a single member it is only a matter of time before the inevitable rancorous split. Calls for a unified Left are as old as the idea of the Left itself, and usually just as ignored, and that is why the appearance of the 1% Network, along with the newly formed United Left Alliance (People Before Profit/SWP, the Socialist Party and the Tipperary Workers and Unemployed Group) is so interesting because it is a measure of just how bad things have become here that the various marginal/radical Left groups have decided to stop fighting each other and come together to campaign under a single banner.

Well, under two single banners.

*Sigh*

Anyway, it was thus with a fire in my belly and a distinct lack of paint on my face that I joined the good people of the 1% Network on Saturday night and set off in search of the Minions of Mammon that conspired together to so effortlessly destroy this rainy little island we call home. While a valid argument might be made that people have a right to privacy inside their homes a) at no stage did any of the 40 or so participants do anything more than stand on public footpaths outside these homes for a few minutes and b) it appeared that none of the actual owners were present at the time being either tax exiles or actually on the run from the Irish courts.

Despite the absence of any of those on the tour's name and shame list, Garda presence was impressively high. Arriving outside the AIB headquarters participants were greeted by two uniformed Gardai on the street and a further two plain clothes Gardai in a parked car videoing all who arrived. When the tour started off along the footpath it was accompanied at all times by these uniformed Gardai and by a Garda van following on the other side of the road, again filming all participants. When the tour reached the corner of Merrion Road and Shrewsbury Road a marked Garda car was parked and a further two Gardai joined in to walk along Shrewsbury Road with the tour, and these were augmented by a number of additional plain clothes Gardai stationed outside specific houses. At times over the course of the tour the ratio approached one Garda for every four participants. I have never felt so safe walking down the streets of Dublin in my life.

Perhaps because of the comforting presence of so many Gardai, the mood on the tour was good natured, light and jovial. The organisers and many participants were dressed in a variety of costumes, from Vampire Capitalists and Zombie Developers to Ghost Estates. Outside each home a litany of misdeeds were read out, and the crowd reacted with suitably halloween-y groans and moans designed to strike fear and terror into the heart of any capitalist, "pay your taxes, ooooooohhhhhh", and all in all a good time was had by all (even some of the Gardai, who definitely cracked a smile or two at some of the comments from the crowd). This was a great example of an imaginative, well thought-out protest, designed to be fun, inclusive, and encouraging participation.

While it cannot be denied that I love a good march, events like this walking tour show the powerful effect that a small group of determined and imaginative people can have, and if you get a chance to go along on another 1% Network tour, do so.

But dress up warm. Its colder out there than you think.

Links

The 1% Network
Indymedia coverage of the event

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