Today’s protest rally in Derry against the vigilante group Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD) went ahead despite calls for it to be cancelled. Hundreds of people filled Guildhall Square to voice their rage against the recent shooting of two teenage cousins earlier in the week.
Relatives of those recently targeted, attacked and murdered by RAAD also attended the city centre rally calling for an end to the attacks.
These so-called ‘punishment’ shootings, which took place late on Wednesday evening followed on from a community rally held in the Creggan area which local anarchists also attended with several hundred other concerned parents and community activists. That public rally had been arranged by the mothers of several teenagers threatened by the vigilante group.
It was during that event where mothers of four teenage boys informed the community how RAAD had visited their homes, ordering them to bring their sons to nearby shops to be shot. They were told in no uncertain terms that if the boys did not turn up for their appointment, they would be shot in the head.
Understandably, given the seriousness of this unfolding situation the rally itself was an emotional and highly charged event. The mother of 25 year old Andrew Allen, recently murdered by RAAD called on the community to stand together to reject the threats, and called publically on the group to go away as the crowds cheered in approval.
As a response, today’s city centre demonstration, organised by ‘RAAD - Not in Our Name’ group was undoubtedly one of the largest witnessed against RAAD calling on it to immediately disarm and disband.
A number of political representatives spoke at the event echoing the calls made by the families for the community to reject all threats issued by RAAD. Prior to today’s rally taking place, word came though local intermediaries that threats had been lifted against two of the teenagers. One of the organisers stated: "I don't know that there have been too many threats lifted in the past by them, and I hope that that's a reflection of the pressure.
"I believe every time there's a threat made, that people need to demonstrate publicly against them."
Throughout the past number of decades anarchists have consistently rejected the use of paramilitary-style policing of working class communities right across the six counties from both republican and loyalist organisations. Not only do we reject it for its "kangaroo court style" justice and subsequent levels of barbarity however as anti-authoritarians, we totally reject the brutalisation of our class from whatever quarter it comes from, be it the forces of the State or the various armed groups.
Such actions show the contempt to which these self-appointed vigilantes’ hold the entire community; a community which they profess to protect has got to be challenged once and for all. This is not about protecting working class communities from drugs and criminality, it never has been. They serve no one but themselves and time and time again it is ordinary working class communities who have to suffer.
What is for certain is that the issues surrounding the drugs problem will not be effectively challenged until armed groups such as RAAD end their brutalisation of working class communities.
As anarchists we call for a unified community response such as what was witnessed on the streets of Derry over the last number of weeks, ordinary working class people taking a stand against attacks on the community. Its time for an open, an educated and community response the all the issues around drugs starting from the increase hopelessness, poverty and deprivation our class are facing day in day out. Its time to end, once and for all the brutalisation of our youth, its time to tell those involved that enough is enough.