Recent punishment beatings and shootings in both Derry and Belfast have highlighted the horrific nature of such attacks carried out by both Loyalist and Republican armed groups across the North. Right on cue, the politicians have lined up to condemn those involved whilst reiterating their support for the our ‘new’ police force who are supposedly dealing with crime in working class areas, but you wouldn’t expect any different from any of them, after all it’s getting ever closer to election time.
In one of the more recent punishment attacks, Loyalists in Coleraine subjected a man in his 20’s to “life-changing injuries” following a punishment shooting, wounding him several times in the arms and legs outside his house. In a separate attack in Derry, Republicans forced their way in to the home of another man beating him in a sustained attack with bats, leaving him for dead and his neighbours traumatised in its aftermath. In a separate attack, a grandmother in Rathcoole estate was shot several times in both legs as she attempted to escape from her home upon their arrival. Such brutality has been equated to ‘the law of the jungle’ or the type of justice meted out by authoritarian regimes as the Taliban or ISIS who are renowned for their rough justice. Either way, it does make you question just what type of society organisations who participate in such actions have in mind for our class when they talk about our emancipation, freedom and liberation.
Throughout the past 40 years of war in the North, armed groups from both sides of the divide have killed, injured and maimed hundreds of ordinary in working class people in a vain attempt to not only control or assert their authority, but also in an attempt to deal with crime and criminality in a vacuum where there is an absence of “law and order” or a “credible police force”, which many would say, “any other normal society would have”.
Unfortunately, as we know only too well, that even after two decades on from the introduction of the ‘Good Friday Agreement’ we still do not live in a “normal society”. Its true many things have changed here in the North but it’s not merely enough. British troop numbers may have dwindled, the Police may have changed their name and uniforms but militarization and security is still big business here. One of the largest security investments since the GFA has been the relocation of a new multi-million pound MI5 headquarters now based on the outskirts of Belfast at Palace Barracks, Hollywood. Now fully operational, they have engaged in intelligence gathering in conjunction with the PSNI on many levels, none more so than with the recruitment and targeting of young people. Many picked up following acts of petty crime and then ‘encouraged’ to spy and inform on their own neighbours. In the past number of years many have come forward and admitted this abuse of power, several have been described as being vulnerable young adults.
Likewise the state’s judicial system has questions to answer with regards their own criminal justice system. Viewed by some for being too lenient towards criminality, working class communities here do turn to Loyalist and Republican armed groups pressurising them also to face-down criminal elements engaged in anti-social behaviour such as ‘joy-riding’, burglaries or drug dealing. Instant ‘rough justice’ to criminality as witness in the past number of weeks is often the result of this. One person ‘walking crime sprees’ who have countless convictions can be a great source of concern within working class communities, especially when police seem to turn a blind eye to their activities. But this is not justice, such barbarity has been proven even after decades of it being practiced by armed groups that such actions cannot and will not deal with anti-working class criminality any more than the state’s system can.
Throughout the past four decades anarchists have rejected the actions of armed groups on both sides in relation to punishment shootings and beatings, and we will continue to do so in favour of a non-aligned community lead response to crime or anti-social behaviour, far from the clutches of armed groups including the police. The legacy of war here has also had an enormous impact on mental health as can be seen with recent findings lead by local mental health workers on the ground. The violence inflicted by armed groups such as punishment shootings and beatings can only but add to this legacy.
As anarchists we demand that these brutal and traumatic tactics end in favour of other community lead initiatives. There are many examples of how communities can use different methods other than extreme violence to tackle anti-working class elements within our areas, none more so than the Zapatistas Movement in the Chiapas area of Mexico and more recently in areas of Kurdistan. Both areas in transition, engaging and discovering differing forms of revolutionary methods to deal with issues affecting their own communities, beyond the clutches of the state. What is for sure is that the trauma of decades of war here followed by decades of financial hardship as capitalism falls from crisis to crisis, has driven many in working class communities further into an increasing spiral using of prescription medication, alcohol or other forms of drug use. If we are to ever have a future at all, then we must effectively create new ways in dealing with issues directly affecting our class, be that crime and the causes of it, and that’s capitalism!
Further information on Anarchists & Crime:
The Anarchist Response to Crime