Students yesterday protested to highlight their belief that the PSNI was a major cause of the Holylands disturbances on St.Patrick's Day.
At 5.00pm yesterday (Thursday) evening, approximately twelve students lined the main gates to Queen's University. A small gathering of students observed the protest. Three police officers also appeared to oversee events.
The demonstration, organised by the Socialist Worker Student Society, blamed both the police and the University for what happened on St.Patrick's Day.
Daniel O'Boyle, a member of the society, said, "The violence that happened on the day was the result of police heavy-handedness and brutality." He also identified the "core" of the problem as being the failure of Queen's to provide suitable accommodation for its students.
Last week on St.Patrick's Day, up to 400 young people, students and non-students, were involved in an incident centred on Carmel Street in the Holylands. One car was burnt out, while bricks and bottles were thrown at police on the scene. Nineteen people were arrested, and five have been charged in connection with the disturbances.
A female protester, who wished not to be named, believed that how the police treated students on the day was unfair.
"Girls were hit- I have bruises on my arm from them pushing me down the street."
Another protester asserted his reasons for participating in the demonstration.
"I want to change the media perception on it- that the police were right. The same scenes happen when there's band parades, especially on 12th July, and there's no riot police out."
Students who observed the demonstration expressed mixed opinions: Student Mark Dunn said, "From this pitiful showing of students from the Holylands...they are merely adding to the reputation that they have put on the university and its students."
Another bystander in support of the protest believed that students are not completely to blame for the problems in the Holylands.
"A lot of the onus is put on students, when a lot of the time residents also provoke the situation", she said, citing her own personal problems with residents in the area.
In a bizarre twist to proceedings, three unusual protesters appeared on the scene; current Students' Union Sabbatical Officers James Murphy and Fergus McAleavey, and newly-elected VP Equality and Diversity Paul Lilly. The trio began to protest on issues of their own: While Murphy held a placard saying "The world is flat", McAleavey campaigned on behalf of "Gary Breen" being "number 1", leaving Lilly to shout at the top of his lungs, "Would anyone like a cup of tae!?"
Speaking to The Gown, Lilly outlined his reasons for protest.
"One of my key areas in equality and diversity is that there's not enough tea bein' drinkin'. Now, the word I use for it is 'tae'..."
On a more serious note, Lilly, who himself lives in the Holylands, said, "I think (the protest) is going a bit far now. I don't think that the light they are portraying the police in is a correct one."
Daniel O'Boyle desribed the Sabb's actions as a "attempt to trivialise the protest".
"(The Sabbatical Officers') responsibility is to offer and provide leadership and to represent the interests of students, and (here) they don't seem to be doing that at all."
Students' Union President Ciarnan Helferty has, through this blog, invited the Socialist Worker Student Society to take part in a public debate on the issues surrounding St.Patrick's Day.