ANTI-LOCKDOWN protesters engaged in angry running battles with police during a planned demonstration in Dublin city centre today.
The chaotic scenes unfolded around Grafton Street, with Gardai filmed charging at crowds of demonstrators after several fireworks were fired directly at officers on the scene. 23 people were arrested.
Smoke bombs, pepper spray and police batons were all visible in footage widely shared across social media.
Earlier Garda had closed St Stephen's Green and Iveagh Gardens in anticipation of the planned protest.
Officers were also seen gathering nearby on Grafton Street.
Protesters carrying a banner calling for the ‘Right to Freedom’ were present during the demonstrations, while there were repeated chants to "end the lockdown" during the event.
The protest began at 2pm and saw hundreds descend on the Irish capital to express their opposition to the ongoing Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.
It follows a week in which the Irish government confirmed that Level 5 restrictions would remain in place across Ireland for a further six weeks.
Gardai opted to block off several areas around the city centre in an attempt at stopping large gatherings across Dublin.
Maybe it’s time to take the far right seriously? Here’s a Fascist demo from this afternoon on Dublin’s Grafton St. Note the use of explosives & that they came armed. pic.twitter.com/pjmpRnZc6X
— Dr Robert Bohan Artist (@RobertBohan) February 27, 2021
One Garda was hospitalised and three others sustained injuries during the unrest. It’s has been reported that 23 people were arrested following the clashes and a special court sitting was held on Saturday night.
According to RTÉ 12 men and one woman were brought before Dublin District Court, charged in connection with protests. All were granted bail.
A gardai spokesperson said: "Gardaí are operating a policing plan Dublin city centre this afternoon.
“A number of traffic diversions and other policing plans are currently in place. Those who are conducting their essential journeys may meet obstructions on their journey and will need to avail of diversions."
Despite Gardai efforts to control the situation, video clips shared online alongside several tweets from those witnessing the unfolding scenes suggest things have descended into chaos.
One demonstrator wrote on Twitter: “Attempting to attend the peaceful protest at St Stephens Green- Gardai have blockaded the green. Everyone now corralled at top of Grafton St. Not sure how this helps public health.”
Gardaí have clashed with anti-lockdown protesters on Grafton Street in Dublin this afternoon.
A protest was planned at Stephen's Green for 2pm. pic.twitter.com/1uHPDBmtlG
— TheJournal.ie (@thejournal_ie) February 27, 2021
Most, however, were in support of the Gardai response.
“Good to see a strong Garda presence at Grafton Street today,” one said.
“The first time I’ve seen them actually baton charge anti-lockdown protesters. About bloody time.”
Another added: “Expressing absolute support and admiration for the members of An Gardai dealing with the thuggery taking place on Grafton Street today.”
“Disgraceful scenes on Grafton Street,” a third added.
“An insult to the people who have died, those who work at the frontline of our hospitals day in day out and those who have otherwise suffered during the pandemic. We need to heed the lessons from other countries dealing with the far right.”
Another criticised many on social media for sharing a video that only told half the story of what was unfolding on Grafton Street.
“I have the original video of the big charge down grafton street,” they wrote.
“The guards did not get aggressive until fireworks were thrown at them time and time again. Stop circulating a selectively edited video.”