Jobstown, a suburb of Tallaght in Ireland has recently become the face of a rising issue: legal ramifications for social protest. The Jobstown water protest was an action against water charges that took place in November 2014. It started with just 10 or 15 people, but later grew as Joan Burton (the former Tanaiste) arrived at a local church.
The protesters gathered around Burton, preventing her from leaving the scene in the vehicle she arrived in. One of the protesters there happened to be a 15-year-old boy, who, two years later at just 17, would be convicted of false imprisonment! All this young man is guilty of is standing up for working class people in his small town.
This wasn’t the first time that protesters have faced legal repercussions for standing up to regressive government policies, and unfortunately it won’t be the last. The criminalisation of protest has been a trend globally, even here in Australia. Countries such as Singapore, Egypt, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom have all introduced anti-protest laws.
In the US, a bill was even introduced that would have legalised the “unintentional” injury or death to protesters by drivers of motor vehicles, which was introduced only recently after Dakota Access Pipeline protesters were under attack by police. Thankfully, this bill was not passed, but the mere thought of a government legalising the killing of protesters should be enough to incite even more discussion and, ultimately, more protest worldwide.
At the moment, another 18 people are facing trial over the Jobstown water charges protest. That people could face long prison sentences for a simple act of protest is outrageous. The Socialist Party demands that conviction of the 17-year-old be overturned and that the charges against the other 18 adults are dropped immediately.
By Jess Brooks