A man who was reporting for the website “The Irish Inquiry” from a public meeting at the Huntstown Community Centre in Dublin last week, was assaulted and had his phone smashed by someone involved in the hosting of the event.
Taking to social media prior to the meeting, former TD Ruth Coppinger urged people to attend and “demand Government action now”. Ms Coppinger said: “Convened by myself and other community activists, we want to bring together working-class communities to discuss how we can put pressure on the government to take emergency action on the cost-of-living crisis!”
At the meeting, Stephen Kerr, who asked questions at the meeting on behalf of The Irish Inquiry, appeared to be assaulted and have his phone smashed against a wall, before men present appeared to attempt to remove him from the meeting.
Taking to YouTube to explain what happened at the meeting on the 31st May, Kerr said: “Last week I attended a meeting here at the Huntstown community centre in Dublin, where I happened to be assaulted.
“The meeting was to do with the rising cost of living, and it was organised by Ruth Coppinger of the Socialist Party.
“[…] Most of the speakers seemed to be involved or connected in some way with the Socialist Party or People Before Profit. Any of these people were given free rein to speak as long as they wanted, whereas when any other members of the community came along to ask some very valid questions, they were hassled very quickly and their questions or concerns weren’t addressed”, Kerr said.
— TheIrishInquiry (@IrishInquiry) June 7, 2022
Kerr claimed that the asking of questions prompted “physical violence, criminal damage, threats and name calling”.
In the lead-up to the violent fall-out, one member of the audience can be heard asking Coppinger about the impact of lockdowns on working people.
One man present at the meeting said: “Can I ask a quick question? Why are some people told to speed through their comments and other people are given the floor?” to which others agreed: “I’d like to know that as well”.
Another person said they were not happy with the coordinator who was “micromanaging” what people could say.
“Depending on the question, you cut people off”, one man protested. “It’s very obvious”.
At one point in the video taken at the meeting, the man who was in charge of the microphone for the Q&A session knocked the phone out of Kerr’s hand and appears to threaten him.
“I’ll f*** you out on your arse”, the man can be heard telling Kerr. He then angrily smashes Kerr’s phone against the wall.
The footage shows what looks like a physical altercation, and Kerr can be seen reeling backwards. He alleges that he was “hit on the stomach” before others from the meeting are forced to intervene.
In the footage shared to social media by the Irish Inquiry, Kerr approaches Ms Coppinger to ask her what she made of the assault.
He asks her: “Ruth, is this guy with you?” referring to the man who smashed his phone and hit him.
She can be heard telling him: “These people are a disgrace. You’re actually a disgrace”. She coontinues. “Why would I talk to you?” She then goes on to call the reporter a “toerag”.
Ms Coppinger can be heard complaining that the meeting she “came here to organise” was disrupted by Kerr and others, adding: “These people are far right, and are not telling people the real agenda”. She denied witnessing the alleged assault.
Significant reaction followed the release of the footage with what took place being referred to as “thuggery”.
The Irish Inquiry described those in attendance as having a “hammer and sickle approach” towards some attendees of the public meeting, especially those who wished to challenge Ruth Coppinger’s support for what they termed “harmful and pointless lockdowns”.
“[…] Why are they calling regular people ‘far right’, while conducting themselves in such an oppressive way, shutting down and censoring free speech and debate using extreme tactics to do so. Why are they acting so puritanical, almost like religious zealots while claiming to be against this kind of control. Does Ruth serve her community?”