IRELAND: Riots Rock Derry 50 Years After the Battle of Bogside

Photo: Police vehicles patrol old city walls of Derry on Monday Night

By Mike Talavera

This week, petrol bombs and other projectiles bombarded the old city walls of Derry (referred to by British occupiers as Londonderry) over the span of multiple nights, frustrating the Police Service of Northern Ireland who have not been able to make any arrests. Now a tourist attraction, the city walls were constructed in the 17th century and serve as a symbol of British colonization.

In addition to the assault on the walls, a barricade was set aflame near Fahan Street in west Derry, bricks and bottles were thrown at police, and a laser pointer was used to blind the pilot of a police helicopter.

These actions are unfolding 50 years after the Battle of Bogside, one of the first major confrontations between Irish rebels and British forces during the period of protracted urban guerrilla warfare known as The Troubles. A year before the battle, a coalition of Irish nationalists had been protesting housing policy in Northern Ireland, which discriminated against Irish residents. On October 5, 1968, protesters defied a ban on marching and took to the streets, where television cameras caught Royal Ulster Constabulary beating the marchers with batons.

Other skirmishes took place in Derry, culminating on August 12 when the Apprentice Boys, a protestant fraternal society, celebrated the city walls which defended protestants in the 17th century. As the march passed along the perimeter of the Bogside area of the city, marchers started to throw objects at Irish onlookers who retaliated. The fight escalated and turned into a citywide riot, injuring dozens of police.

Scene from the Battle of the Bogside in 1969.

Last month, Boris Johnson was elected Prime Minister of the UK, signaling a greater certainty that the country will exit the European Union sometime later this year. Imperialists like former secretary of state John Kerry have expressed concern that “Brexit” could lead to increased tension between the Irish and the British occupiers of so-called northern Ireland.

If a harder border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the country is imposed, it will only further justify the righteous rebellion of the Irish national liberation struggle. Multiple acts of violent resistance this year in Derry alone should leave no doubt that a return to the armed resistance of the Troubles will come even sooner than the imperialists fear.