Massacre at Derry, by Civil Rights Movement (nd, 1972)
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MASSACRE AT DERRY
Published by the Civil Rights Movement
Derry differs from all other atrocities that have occurred to date in the struggle for civil rights and democracy in Northern Ireland. The 1969 attempted pogrom was not ordered or directed by the British Government. This massacre was.
That mass-murder took place in Derry on Sunday, January 30, 1972 is beyond doubt. There is no need for an inquiry into this fact. There were more than 30,000 eye-witnesses.
The only subject for inquiry is why and by what process the decision to engage in a massacre was taken. And, because the British Army murdered people of a different nationality in the interests of the British Government, any inquiry held must be international.
The establishment of the Widgery Inquiry was meant to inhibit publication of eyewitness accounts and comment, shield those responsible and hide from the world descriptions of the terrible slaughter of innocent defenceless people. In speeches announcing the establishment of the Inquiry both Mr. Reginald Maudling, the British Home Secretary, and Mr. Edward Heath, the British Prime Minister, publicly condoned the action of the British Army.
This pamphlet aims at telling the world, through the eyes of Derry citizens, what happened to thirteen of their number on Derry's Bloody Sunday.
It is important to understand fully what the British Government was trying to murder in Derry that Sunday. The bullets were aimed at 30,000 people - at the mass movement of the people mobilised in support of the Civil Rights demands.
The people marched in Derry to show their defiance in a peaceful manner against oppression. To hold a march is "illegal". To hold a meeting is "legal". To hold a meeting only is to capitulate to a whole series of laws which stretch across the statute book from the ludicrous ban on parades to internment under The Special Powers Act. To march, on the other hand, is to mobilise maximum public pressure against a law which epitomises every other repressive law.
Those marching in Derry that day were marching to open the gates of Concentration Camps, smash torture chambers, end repression and military terror. They were met with a new and terrible escalation of administrative violence.
To the list of intimidation, internment, torture and individual murders has now been added the holocaust in Derry.
Derry has taken its place with My Lai and Sharpeville as a milestone in the struggle of humanity against oppression. By this single act the British and Unionist Governments, Edward Heath, Brian Faulkner and Reginald Maudling have added their names to the annals of human infamy.
Undeterred by official Tory-Unionist malevolence the Civil Rights Movement is more determined than ever to press the demand for democracy.
The decision in the North is not that between a military victory for the I.R.A. on the one hand and the British Army on the other. Rather is it a choice between the achievement of full democratic rights for all citizens or a continuation of policies which foster sectarianism and are based on repression of large sections of the population.
The methods of the Civil Rights Association are mass action by an organised people in non-violent peaceful protest against terror: the enlisting of world opinion against the British and Unionist system of terror and repression.
Civil Rights Association
The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association will continue to campaign until we have achieved the objectives set when the Association was formed; a society in which every citizen will enjoy full civil rights and social justice. Despite the Downing Street Declaration and legislation passed at Stormont, the ordinary citizen has less freedom than at any time for the past 50 years.
The complete failure of the Stormont Administration to carry out the Downing Street Declaration, the refusal to repeal the Special Powers Act, and its increased use by the Military, UDR and RUC against anti-Unionists, the Falls Curfew, the one-sided arms searches, the shoot-to-kill policy in Catholic areas, the introduction of internment, the continuing torture of prisoners, and the present policy of terrorising and dragooning the whole anti-Unionist population has led to the final alienation of that population. This alienation is the direct result of the policies of the Westminster Government and Stormont Administration. The alienation has taken two forms: one, a violent response: one a non-violent response as exemplified by the Civil Disobedience Campaign.
The British Government and the N. Ireland administration are trying to obscure the Civil Disobedience campaign which has involved hundreds of thousands of people, by claiming the struggle is solely between the British Army and a handful of "terrorists". The reality which must be emphasised is that a whole community has totally rejected the Stormont system.
The Civil Disobedience Campaign will go on until our demands are met. The meeting of our demands will create a climate where peaceful politics are possible.
To create conditions in which talks can take place, the following demands must be met and the NICRA must be represented at such talks.
We reiterate that the civil disobedience campaign will continue until talks on a political solution have reached a satisfactory conclusion.
The minimum acceptable outcome of these talks would be the ending of:
We stress that our function is to secure basic human and civil rights for all of the people in this area, irrespective of their politics or religion. This could be attained by the adoption of an effective Bill of Rights by the Government in power.
What was the attitude of the Civil Rights Association to the Derry march? How did its attitude compare with that of Mr. Brian Faulkner and the Security Forces?
Two keynote statements were circulated to the media by the Civil Rights organisation prior to the Sunday march and meeting planned for Derry.
On Friday, January 28, two days prior to the Sunday demonstration, the following news release appeared on the front pages of both the "Derry Journal" and the "Irish News" - the two newspapers most read by the people of Derry. Under the heading "Organisers want big Derry rally incident free" the "Irish News" carried the statement:
"A meeting of stewards for Sunday's planned Civil Rights demonstration and rally at Guildhall Square, Derry, will be held at the Creggan Centre at 8.00 p.m. tonight. Stewards will receive final instructions from members of the N.I.C.R.A. executive, and be fully briefed on plans and tactics.On Saturday, January 29, the eve of the Derry demonstration, a further statement of intent was widely carried by the media:
"A call for a massive turnout at the Civil Rights Demonstration planned for Derry tomorrow has been made by the Executive of the Civil Rights Association. Making the call the Executive pointed out that the British Government are now full-tilt on repression and coercion and that a massive peaceful demonstration was vital if world opinion was to be impressed by the justice of the democratic cause in Northern Ireland.In a statement from the Camp Council at Long Kesh Concentration Camp carried by the "Irish News" on the same day, the internees themselves said:
"The people have responded to the latest brutalities, repression and intimidation in the only ways left open to them. The present marches at Magilligan, Newcastle, Armagh, Lurgan and the Falls are the disciplined expression of the people's refusal to accept legalised terror. In this nonviolent form of demonstration they have our entire support and we call on everyone who does not wish to be identified with Unionist repression to give his total and unconditional support to the mass demonstrations and marches in Derry and Coalisland this week-end."Speaking in Stormont on Tuesday, January 25, Prime Minister Brian Faulkner said "that individuals and organisations which . . . would attempt to break the ban on parades . . . would be dealt with firmly by the security forces."
In the same debate the Rev. Ian Paisley, Democratic Unionist M.P., referred to a meeting he had with General Tuzo regarding the breaking of the ban by the Civil Rights march at Falls Park. Rev. Paisley said that General Tuzo had told him that it was his business to stop parades where and how he liked. The General said that if he felt they should not be stopped and that summonses only should be issued, he would take that particular line. Continuing Rev. Paisley said: "I asked him: 'If Protestants come out what will you do?' and he replied: "We will hammer them into the ground."
On Thursday, January 27, the Democratic Unionist Association in Derry served notice on the R.U.C. that it intended holding a public religious rally in Guildhall Square at 2.30 p.m. The Guildhall Square was the announced termination point for the Civil Rights march due to start from Bishops Field, Creggan, at 2.00 p.m.
The Rev. James McClelland, a Minister for Derry Free Presbyterian Church and vice-President of the Derry and Foyle Democratic Unionist Association said: "The civil rights march is not legal. Theirs, he said, would be. The authorities will have to keep their word and stop the civil rights march and give us protection". (Irish Press, Jan. 28).
On the Sunday of the march the Sunday Post, Observer and Sunday Mirror, among other papers, carried prominent reports of the cancellation of the planned prayer rally.
Under the heading "'Blame for Bloodshed' Fear Halts Protestant Rally" the SUNDAY POST report reads:
"A Protestant rally in Londonderry, planned to coincide with an anti-internment rally today, was called off yesterday afternoon.The SUNDAY POST report continued:
"A big clash is almost certain when the Civil Rights demonstrators march on the Guildhall in defiance of the Government's parade ban.A front page report on the SUNDAY OBSERVER, January 30, carried much of the Democratic Unionist Association statement under the headline "'Last Chance' Protestant rally dropped."
In the same report and a similar one in the SUNDAY MIRROR the final note in the prelude to the afternoon's events was struck.
This came in the shape of a joint Army-R.U.C. statement described in the OBSERVER front page story as "a firm policy statement and warning". "The Army and police are in effect putting the blame on the organisers in advance for any violence that may occur" commented the OBSERVER.
Other parts of the joint Army-R.U.C. statement are quoted in the OBSERVER.
"The security forces have a duty to take action against those who set out to break the law. In carrying out their duty they are concerned to avoid or reduce to absolute minimum the consequences of any violence that may erupt.The final paragraph of the Army-R.U.C. statement above was printed in black type in the SUNDAY MIRROR report.
On Monday, January 31, Signor Fulvio Grimaldi, an Italian journalist in Derry to report the march, described in a Radio Eireann interview what he saw:
"It was the most unbelievable . . . I have travelled many countries, I have seen many civil wars and revolutions and wars, I have never seen such a cold-blooded murder, organised, disciplined murder, planned murder."He said:
"I was in the front line of the march as the march approached the barricade erected by the military in William Street. There were a few exchanges, a few throws of stones, not very heavy, and afterwards, about three or four minutes, the Army moved up with this water cannon and sprayed the whole crowd with coloured water. Then the crowd dispersed.Signor Grimaldi was asked if at any stage before the paratroopers fired there might have been shots from the top of Rossville Flats. He replied: "I am absolutely certain, and it is proved by the tape, which records the whole following of events. Absolutely no shot, no nail bomb even, nothing at all. That crowd was dispersing."
He was asked, in view of the fact that the Army claimed that they had been shooting at snipers on top of the flats, whether he had seen any dead and wounded other than in the streets. He went on: "Let me tell you what I saw. Now, they were only in the street and in the squares. I saw a man and his son crossing the street, trying to get to safety, with their hands on their heads. They were shot dead. The man got shot dead. The son, I think, was dying.
"I saw a young fellow who had been wounded, crouching against the wall. He was shouting 'don't shoot, don't shoot'. A paratrooper approached and shot him from about one yard. I saw a young boy of 15 protecting his girl friend against the wall and then proceeding to try and rescue her by going out with a handkerchief and with the other hand on his hat. A paratrooper approached, shot him from about one yard into the stomach, and shot the girl into the arm.Signor Grimaldi was asked what the mood of the people in the Bogside had been while this was going on. He said: "It was panic, it was sheer despair, it was frustration. I saw people crying, old men crying, young boys, who had lost their friends of 14, 13 and 15 years, crying and not understanding. There was astonishment. There was bewilderment, there was rage and frustration."
Bishops Field, a large grass area in the vast Creggan housing estate was the assembly point. Some 12,000 people from the Creggan and Shantallow mainly, but with a strong Belfast delegation moved off headed by the Civil Rights Association banner. Banners carried in the Belfast Falls march showed above the mass - "Civil Rights for All", "Release All Internees" and "End Special Powers Act."
As we wended our way down towards Brandywell it was obvious that only the sick and child-minders had been left behind in Creggan.
Slowing at Brandywell the demonstration was joined by thousands more and at each street corner in Bogside more and yet more peaceful marchers joined in. Finally the figure marching approached twenty five to thirty thousand.
Up from the Bogside - a long straight hill. Then sharply right downhill in William Street. At this point the first soldiers were seen - Saracens and strong foot detachments in the complex of streets at Francis Street. NICRA stewards blocked these streets to prevent any confrontations. From this point the Guildhall Clock Tower is clearly visible: the time 3.40 p.m.
When the tail of the march cleared this point the confrontation with the head of the parade had commenced. A cloud of dye and C.S. Gas could be seen rising above the roof tops, the dull thump of rubber bullets firing could be heard. As the tail of the march passed Little James' Street facing Rossville Street rubber bullets were fired by troops in Little James' Street into the marching people.
The noise of a second volley of rubber bullets could not disguise the distinctive crack of two S.L.R. rifles fired by paratroopers stationed in sniper positions in a derelict factory nearby.
The first innocent victims had been shot.
Blocked by C.S. Gas, dye and rubber bullets at the lower end of William St., the Platform Lorry and the bulk of marchers turned back past the High Rise Rossville Flats across the open ground to Free Derry Corner.
Loudspeakers and stewards announced the meeting point.
The platform party assembled and Bernadette Devlin began speaking to a peaceful crowd of some 10,000. Thousands more were flooding towards the meeting point. Shooting commenced almost immediately - around the High Rise Flats at high speed raced three Saracens. Muzzle flashes could be seen at the firing ports. Bullets whined above the now prone mass of people. Two distant cracks from the direction of Old Derry Walls were heard. Bullets hit Free Derry Wall and nearby maisonette walls. The crowd began dispersing rapidly under the urging of the platform .. . "Disperse . . . disperse.."
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