Protests Escalate

Category : Wars and Conflict

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Protests Escalate

On 2 November 1968, the Derry Citizens' Action Committee (DCAC) organised a parade along the route civil rights protesters had been prevented from marching on 5 October 1968. It was intended that the march would consist of the 15 committee members only. However, up to 2,000 sympathisers turned out in support.

The march began along Duke Street, Derry, and proceeded to the Diamond. A group of Loyal Citizens of Ulster led by Major Ronald Bunting wearing a military tunic tried to block the march at Ferryquay Gate.

On 4 November, Northern Ireland Prime Minister Terence O'Neill travelled to Downing Street, accompanied by Minister of Home Affairs William Craig and Minister of Commerce Brian Faulkner, to meet with British Prime Minister Harold Wilson and Home Secretary James Callaghan for talks about the situation in Northern Ireland. Harold Wilson confirmed the constitutional position of Northern Ireland in relation to the Republic but was not as committed on the independence of Stormont from Westminster.

On the same day another civil rights march in Belfast, there were scuffles between students and loyalists in Shaftesbury Square.
On 16 November, the Derry Citizens' Action Committee (DCAC) defied a ban on marches in Derry.

15,000 people marched from the railway station at the Waterside along Duke Street, where the protest on 5 October 1968 had been halted, and then across Craigavon Bridge, at which point they were met by a police cordon. The leaders of the protest approached the barriers where Ivan Cooper, DCAC chairman, spoke through a loud-hailer. District Inspector McGimpsey told the marchers that a ban had been imposed on parades inside the walls of Derry. Cooper replied, "We wish to inform Mr William Craig and the police that we are marching in the name of civil rights. This is our city. Anyone has the right to march in it and we are taking that right." Four members of the committee got through the police barrier in a gesture to show the right to march.

The protest was well-marshalled by stewards who addressed the crowd and held a line in front of the police barriers. Singing ''We Shall Overcome'' and chanting "Craig out", the march proceeded to the Diamond and eventually into Guildhall Square.
The day after the Derry march, on 17 November, more than 150 delegates of the Nationalist Party met at Dungannon, Tyrone, on 17 November 1968. At the meeting, a pledge was taken for a "guerrilla campaign of non-violence", to be carried out by civil disobedience.

On the same day, there were further marches by various workers' groups within the walled area of Derry in defiance of the ban on marches and meetings in that section. John Hume condemned all sectarian acts and expressed a belief that there was no sectarian element in the civil rights movement.

The accompanying image shows a view of a Civil Rights March in Newry.
© RTÉ Stills Library 0122/073



Protests Escalate

Category: Wars and Conflict

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