You Cannot Put A Knee Upon The Neck Of An Idea

“Please, I can’t breathe. My stomach hurts. My neck hurts. Everything hurts. They’re going to kill me.” These were among the last words of George Floyd, killed on May 25th after Minneapolis PD officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes. The killing has drawn universal condemnation. All four officer were fired immediately and Chauvin was soon charged with third-degree murder, (to which second-degree murder was later added.) The other three officers, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane, and Tou Thao have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.

“Black lives matter.” “Fight racism.” Every day since the killing protests have taken place in cities all across the United States and the world demonstrating against police brutality and racism (here is a collection of images from Saturday June 6th, 2020) Murals painted around the world, including the one above on the so-called “International Wall” on Divis Street (here is a Guardian gallery of George Floyd murals which describes the incomplete Belfast mural in rapturous terms).

As the in-progress shots show (below), Chauvin was originally painted with sunglasses on his head but these have been replaced by a MAGA cap. Two members of the Ku Klux Klan appear in the top right. Three officers with shaved heads and Minneapolis PD (“City of lakes”) badges are shown on the left in the poses of the three monkeys Mizaru, Kikazaru, and Iwazaru who hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.

The title of today’s post is derived from a line in Seán O’Casey’s The Story Of Thomas Ashe (1917, under the name “Seán Ó Cathasaigh”; also later published as The Sacrifice Of Thomas Ashe): “You cannot put a rope around the neck of an idea; you cannot put an idea up against a barrack-square wall and riddle it with bullets; you cannot confine it in the strongest prison cell that your slaves could ever build.” Sometimes erroneously attributed to Bobby Sands, as in this 1981 mural.

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 divis street marty lyons mickey doherty sponsored by Féile an Phobail Fáilte Feirste

A Living Hell For Children

Civil war continues in Yemen with 111 soldiers killed, allegedly by Houthi rebels, in a missile attack on a military mosque on January 18th (BBC). The country remains the country with the most humanitarian need: according to the UN, 24 million people, 80% of the population, are in need. The mural on west Belfast’s International Wall from April 2019 has been completed with the flags of Spain, Canada, and China being added to those of the US, UK, and France on the missiles raining down (now in two ranks) on civilians, blood dripping from cash-filled Saudi hands, and a UNICEF statistic included in our original post: “1 child dies every 10 minutes as a result of the war in Yemen”

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Free Kashmir

Kashmir has remained a disputed territory since the partition of India in 1947. It remains under Indian administration, despite different groups rebelling since 1987, some seeking union with Pakistan and others an independent Kashmir. Indian forces have been accused of human rights abuses against Kashmiris. For the mural on the right, see This Is Our Republic.

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Merdeka

Merdeka! Independence! West Papuans live under Indonesian rule since 1962 when United States, in the guise of the UN, “entrusted” the territory to Indonesia in exchange for a captured CIA pilot (WP). Leader-in-exile Benny Wenda is shown here against a backdrop of the flag of (independent) West Papua, the Morning Star, shown here hanging vertically.

The adjacent mural expresses solidarity with the Syrian Kurds – see Rojava Offensive.

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And The Cry Was “Keine Kapitulation”

The third (and surely not the final?) season of the popular UK drama Brexit is keeping people guessing. This week, it looks like Boris might betray the ever-loyal Arlene and agree a Northern Ireland-only backstop with EU before time runs out on October 31st. In Belfast, lower Shankill residents are not amused by this potential turn of events and have invoked the classic “No surrender!” catch-phrase from 1688’s Siege Of Derry, painted on the wall between the security gates dividing Catholic and Protestant west Belfast. (Just kidding, of course; this is serious stuff. But the twists and turns are worthy of a telenovela. As Belfasters have always said, “If you’re not confused, you don’t know what’s going on.”)

Other recent messages below the Imagine mural: Victory To IsrealYour Wall, Your Border

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End Apartheid

15 year-old Fian Gerald McAuley was the first member of the IRA to die in the Troubles. He was shot in Waterville Street by a loyalist sniper while helping people move from burned-out homes in Bombay Street, along which the “peace” line separating the Falls and Shankill now runs, overlooking the Clonard Memorial Garden, site of the service for the 50th anniversary of McAuley’s death. In the windows of a nearby house we also see a poster in support of Palestine and a Bobby Sands-Che Guevara hurl.

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Imagine There’s No Countries

No sooner had the pro-Trump message been blackened out (Your Wall, Your Border) than this graffiti appeared below the ‘Imagine’ mural in the neutral ground between the security gates on Northumberland Street: “Victory To Isreal [Israel]” with the Star of David.
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Your Wall, Your Border

US president Donald Trump followed a three-day state visit to the UK (London and Portsmouth) with a few days in Ireland before briefly stopping in France for D-Day commemorations. In London, protesters gathered in their tens of thousands and the ‘Trump baby’ blimp flew in Parliament Square (gallery of images at CNN) before making its way to Dublin (BBC) for the second leg of the trip. The Trumps were likewise met by protesters when they landed at Shannon Airport (Irish Times) where he met Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and remarked “I think it [Brexit] will all work out very well [for the UK]. And also for you, with your wall, your border. We have a border situation in the United States and you have one over here, but I hear it’s going to work out very well.”
The besieged president would have been welcome, however, in loyalist west Belfast – the Israeli Star Of David and graffiti shown above were added below the Imagine mural between the security gates on Northumberland Street: “President Trump welcome in Belfast. No surrender.”
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Shankill Brigadistas

After the Nationalist coup in 1936, the UK and US continued to recognise Spain’s Republican government but did not intervene militarily. Individuals from these counties thus participated in the conflict by joining the British and Lincoln battalions of the XV International Brigade, fighting alongside Balkans, Belgians, and Cubans at Jarama, Brunete, and the Ebro river, among other battles. For background on Belfast socialism of the period see this article by Stevie Downes.
“International Brigades – Spanish Civil War 1936 – 39. Commemorating all those who served and died with the XV International Brigade in the fight against fascism including the following Brigadistas from the Shankill area: William Beattie … Bill Henry … William Laughran … Henry McGrath … James Isaac Hillen … Joseph Lowery … Andrew Molyneaux. No pasarán. Unveiled by Tommy and Freddie McGrath, nephews of Henry McGrath, and Baroness May Blood, trade union & community activist. International Brigade Commemoration Committee. Saturday 1st February 2014.”
Previously: Plaque to (Protestant) Beattie and (Catholic) O’Neill | Belfast Socialists marching at Bodenstown (though possibly those from the Shankill were excluded) | Derry Brigadistas | a bust to the International Brigade in Writers Square, Belfast. Also: Guernica | Derry Guernica.
The plaque is in the Shankill Road Library.
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UN 194

Tonight’s second round of performances in the Eurovision Song Contest sees the Irish entry take the stage. (The UK’s song has a bye into Friday night’s finals.) The competition is taking place in Tel Aviv, Israel, which has prompted the BDS movement to urge a boycott of the event. Among those lodging a protest are Gael Force Art, who took to Sliabh Dubh last weekend with a large Palestinian flag. Article 11 of UN Declaration 194 asserts that refugees displaced by the 1948 Arab-Israeli war should be able to return home.
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