26 May 2012     


No vigilantes

In February of this year Trayvon Martin was shot dead by a self-styled vigilante in the American city of Los Angeles. The defence used by the man who fired the shot, and, it seems by the Los Angeles police force, was that he was entitled to do what he did under the so-called “stand your ground” laws operating in some states of the United States. The event, quite rightly, received worldwide publicity and has led to many demonstrations throughout the United States.
     What has not received anything like the same publicity is the situation in Derry, designated the UK’s City of Culture in 2013, and the vigilantes of Republican Action Against Drugs (RAAD).
     A report in the Guardian by its Ireland correspondent, Henry McDonald, did, however, feature on its front page, and if figures quoted by him are true then it makes for disturbing reading.
     One man has been shot dead by gunmen from the RAAD, but his family claim that it had nothing to do with drugs but the fact that he stood up to them. In the past year, according to McDonald, more than two hundred young men have been forced out of the city and at least eighty-five have suffered “punishment” shootings.  
     Whilst one member of the 32-County Sovereignty Committee was quoted as saying that RAAD could not exist without some support from the community, another statement came from someone who claimed that RAAD were “exploiting a drugs panic akin to the Salem witches hysteria,” and several public demonstrations have taken place against RAAD.
     Drug-dealers deserve no sympathy, but vigilantes carrying out community policing is not the answer, especially as there are accusations that score-settling is also taking place.
     Those who set themselves up as judge, jury and executioner are not doing it on behalf of the people. They should stop.

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