An anti-lockdown protester today shot a firework at a police officer’s face in Dublin, prompting Gardaí to charge at demonstrators headed for St Stephen’s Green.
Protesters were met by a heavy police presence before they could make it to the city centre park, which police had closed to the public before the planned demo at 2pm.
Footage showed the protesters massing on Grafton Street leading to the green before a man walked towards the police line aiming a stick of fireworks which blew into the face of an officer.
Gardaí reacted furiously to the projectile assault, charging with their batons and striking out as people fell to the ground while fireworks exploded around them.
Cans and traffic cones were hurled at officers in the chaos and women were heard shrieking in terror as police forced demonstrators back down the road.
A man (white shirt with arms aloft) is seen approaching the police line with a smouldering firework stick which soon explodes, firing a projectile into an officer’s face on Grafton Street. Chaos then ensues as the officers break ranks to charge down the demonstrators
Police drag a protester across the street next to St Stephen’s Green in the city centre on Saturday afternoon
Gardaí were seen hitting protesters with batons and using snarling German Shepherd dogs to help clear the streets after a firework was shot at one of their officer’s on Saturday afternoon
Police officers pin a demonstrator to the ground as they disperse protesters in central Dublin today
Gardaí were seen lashing out with batons and using snarling German Shepherd dogs to help clear the streets.
Before the violence erupted the demonstrators had walked down Dublin’s main thoroughfare, O’Connell Street, to the General Post Office (GPO) where a recording of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic was played.
Fine Gael TD Neale Richmond called the organisers ‘self-styled patriots’ who preyed upon the fears of the most vulnerable in society with conspiracy theories.
‘From the outset, this protest was ill-advised, fuelled by conspiracy theories and championed by individuals seeking to manipulate the genuine fears of many vulnerable individuals,’ he told The Independent.
‘Some of the eye witness footage circulating is extremely disturbing and every public representative should condemn these awful scenes.
‘The footage appears to show a lit firework being thrown at members of the gardai by one protester, which is truly shameful.
‘These self-styled patriots are a clear threat to the well-being of our nation. All these Covid protestors have done is bring shame to our capital’s streets.’
Higher Education Minister Simon Harris also condemned the chaos.
‘Pure thuggery on the streets of Dublin today,’ the minister tweeted.
‘It’s not a “protest”. It’s an attack on our national effort. The abuse directed at the gardaí is sickening and shameful. Disgraceful. Thoughts with the gardaí and their families.’
Officers pin a young man to the ground, left, and lead another away from the protests, right
Gardai wielding batons march towards anti-lockdown protesters in the Irish capital today
An officer shouts at demonstrators as they clash in central Dublin today
A demonstrator covered in dirt and liquid is held by an officer in central Dublin today
Gardaí earlier said they would be operating a ‘policing plan’ in the city centre, with the Luas (tram) line closed into St Stephen’s Green and several other diversions in place.
In a tweet, the police force said: ‘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.’
Ireland has been living under draconian lockdown restrictions throughout the winter.
The Level 5 rules currently in force mean you cannot leave your home unless you have a ‘reasonable excuse’ for doing so and must stay within 3 miles of your home.
Footage shows some protesters bunching up at the side of the street as the police move in to disperse the crowd
An officer is taunted by angry protesters as he holds his baton in the air
Protesters and police face each other on Grafton Street, Dublin, on Saturday afternoon
A demonstrator remonstrates with officers in the Irish capital on Saturday
You cannot have guests at your house and can only meet another household for exercise outdoors.
The country has recorded an average of 27 coronavirus deaths and 693 new cases over the last seven days.
Leo Varadkar said last week that the next interval at which the government would consider easing restrictions would not be until April 5.
As of February 23, 373,280 doses of the coronavirus vaccine had been administered in Ireland, a country of almost 5 million people.
This includes 238,841 first doses and 134,439 second doses.