By Ian Bolas
LONDON — Three thousand people marched here on August 10 to mark the 20th anniversary of internment without trial in Northern Ireland.
The march also commemorated the deaths 10 years ago of Bobby Sands and nine other Irish political prisoners. Sands and his comrades died in the H-blocks after a prolonged hunger strike.
Their photos were carried by a group of marchers alongside black flags as a sign of mourning and respect.
Organised by the Irish Freedom Movement, the march made its way through northern London, led by fife and drum bands from Scotland and Derry. It was noisy but well disciplined. Chants and slogans centred on the twin demands "Troops out of Ireland" and "Prisoners out of jail".
There was a large police presence, including mounted police and vans.
The march is an annual event, and has been attacked by fascist gangs in recent years. The police approach has been to allow these confrontations to develop and then to retaliate against the marchers when they defend themselves. Numerous arrests have been the consequence.
This year the right was conspicuously absent and the police chose not to intervene, even when Britain's draconian, "anti-terrorist" laws were flouted by the presence of a Sinn Fein speaker and the playing of the Irish national anthem.
The British authorities, who employ "shoot to kill" squads in Northern Ireland and supply intelligence to loyalist murder gangs, apply a broad definition of "terrorism" when it comes to the activities of their opponents.
A rally concluding the march was addressed by Martha Ellis, sister of Dessie Ellis, who is in Brixton prison awaiting trial. Ellis is accused of possession of explosives between 1981 and 1983 and of conspiracy to cause explosions "to persons unknown in places unknown" during this period.
The rally was also addressed by John Fitzpatrick of the IFM and Michael Macdonncha from Sinn Fein.
A recurring them in the speeches was the imperialist nature of the British occupation of Northern Ireland and the need to take sides with the Irish people against it.
Messages of support were received from a number of groups, including the Kurdish Flood of Liberation. While the Irish were well represented amongst the marchers, there were many who were British, from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds.
Government policy is to prevent Irish freedom fighters as common criminals. To assist this project, it imposes a rigid censorship on the reporting of events in Northern Ireland — a censorship which is virtually unchallenged by the British media.
The success of the Irish Freedom Movement march demonstrates that, despite all the propaganda, significant numbers of British people are not convinced that the IRA are criminals and are prepared to take to the streets to show which side they are on.