The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
What It's Like to be Raided

Never, 'for the sake of peace and quiet', deny your own experience or convictions. - Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjöld

Carrie Twomey • July 12, 2003

A week ago yesterday we were raided. It was quite a night. I had just taken some photos of my American flag, which I’d set out for the 4th of July holiday, and was working with them on the computer. I looked out the window and saw a jeep turn in our street. They will usually come in to turn around and go back out through the estate (there’s only one road in and it’s the same way out, British counter-insurgency architecture). I thought nothing of it, but then another jeep came in behind that one, and another, and another, and another. I shut the computer down and shouted to Anthony in the kitchen – “The cops are here,” then went out to the front garden where my daughter was playing. One of our neighbors was on the ball and had come out as soon as she heard the jeeps and their distinctive whine. “I’ll take her for you,” she said, scooping my daughter up and going over the gate as an amazing number of cops, all kitted out in their robo-cop gear were streaming in over her.

One cop stopped me and asked was this the McIntyre house as some of his colleagues slipped down our alleyway into our back garden. It was a gorgeous summer evening, really sunny. The street quickly took on the air of a bizarre carnival as it filled with people, hundreds of cops and their jeeps and all the neighborhood kids and their dogs and the rest of the neighbors. There were jeeps ringed at the end of our street and going up one side of the road and down the other. At each jeep one or two cops stood guard, looking a bit like black-clad Michellin men in their riot gear, bullet-proof vests and other accessories, including their machine guns at the ready. Inside the jeeps were a number of other cops, ready to go should trouble arise. Our neighbors counted 14 jeeps in our cul de sac, and 33 jeeps all told, from our street, the street that goes up to us and the main road in. If they hadn’t taken my camera – and I had the wit to think to do so – I would have taken photos. It was really an amazing (for lack of a better word) sight, one I will not be soon in forgetting. I was in a bit of a haze and a little afraid to make eye contact or be caught looking at them when I went outside to the front garden now and again during the search, checking on my daughter.

She had a blast, I must say. The weather was wonderful, she got to play in our neighbor’s (bigger) garden, she had chocolate cornflakes for dinner and got to stay up well past her bedtime. She hadn’t a clue what was going on – she’s only two. The woman who watched her later told me about what it was like for her growing up getting her home raided. When she was 4, she recalled, and stood screaming in the bathtub up the stairs, screaming so hard and so long she gave the raiders such a fright they did not want to go in. And always the house wrecked afterwards, always. We, in comparison, were very lucky.

At first they had allocated 2 search teams for our house but quickly decided that was not enough manpower for them, they sent for 2 more. The team in the sitting room went through every book, even my daughter’s baby books. It wasn’t just a matter of opening a book and thumbing through it, they literally went through every page. They went through all my daughter’s toys, taking an old mobile that hasn't worked for a year (she uses it to "call Grandma") as "evidence". They took my journal, which I had on the computer table because I’d copied a poem from it onto the computer recently; the journal was two years old and had nothing to do with anything. It was a bit weird watching them going through our things, and resisting the urge to peek at what they were looking at – things you’d forgotten you’d even owned or kept as a keepsake. Odd to be curious about your own things, and to fear that curiosity. Watching a stranger looking through things pulled from a drawer, wondering, “What on Earth is that? What did my aunt say in that letter? What bills are those? Where did those (undeveloped) rolls of film come from? Are they baby pictures I forgot to take to Boots? I didn’t even know those were there! What is that?” You feel if you ask about it you're just creating more interest in something you haven't a clue about. Even weirder when they were in our bedroom, where the keepsakes tend to be more personal than ones you would absentmindedly shove in a drawer downstairs. When they were looking at all of our Irish history books they despaired at going through them page by page, there are so many. A whole wall of them in one room, the width of the house. Every room but the bathroom has books and bookshelves. They went through all the things in the bathroom, too. Toothpaste, deodorant, rolls of toilet paper, baby shampoo and bath, rubber duckies and q-tips. All those things you really should throw away but let clutter the back of the tub. All looked over, rummaged. Worse than if you were selling the home, like on those ‘House Doctor’ shows – at least then you’d make the effort at getting rid of the clutter, instead of living with it as you do. I felt stupid saying “Excuse me,” or “Sorry,” passing one or two of the cops going up or down the stairs. Ever polite I am, I didn’t want to be rude.

At the end of the raid, they asked us had we any complaints. Of course we both said we’d like to complain about the fact they raided us to begin with, but that wasn’t the sort of complaint they meant. They started to file out the hallway, ready to leave, and asked if we’d any last words, just to be sure. “Yeah, get the hell out of my house, you bastards!” I said. Better late than never. They laughed. What could you do?

Almost 3 hours they took going through everything in our home. There was nothing for them to find, as the raid was politically motivated anyway – done in response to the political pressure being put on cops over the protest at Dundonald House; it is hard to gauge the thinking behind the raid as those who carried it out are far removed from those who gave the order. But in our case it was purely political, done solely because of our political beliefs and not because we are engaged in anything illegal. This is not to say that the idiots who went to the media boasting about the supposed document they stole aren’t responsible for giving a green light for everyone who was involved in the protest to have their homes raided. Surely however the way the raid was conducted was a bit over the top and unwarranted given the circumstances.

Thankfully they did no damage, although maybe it’s just coincidence that the backlight on my stereo display doesn’t work anymore (the bulb could have run out). Still it makes me more paranoid than I already am about speaking in my own home.

The last couple days I have been angry, so angry I could spit. I don’t really have any outlet for the anger and it has gotten me down. Whenever I think about my camera - a gift from my parents that I use as a creative outlet - I get angry. Don’t even get me started on the computer – but at least I can come to the cyber café and escape for a couple hours at a time. It’s not the end of the world, not by a long shot, but it is frustrating as hell. You’re made nervous in your own home, fearful of your own things, paranoid; it’s a violation of your sense of self, your security, your sense of space, your privacy. The most valuable/expensive things you own are taken from you, with no indication of when they will be returned or in what condition. You are left wondering when the police will return and what will happen then. When you shut the door on them as they leave your house and clamber back into their jeeps, you aren’t given any sense that it is over; rather you are left with the horrible feeling that the other shoe is yet to drop. And that feeling you must live with until it does.

The house felt strangley empty after they had gone, deflated like when the last guest from a disastorous party has departed and you’re left with the debris of revelry. We’re still finding bits of paper and things displaced, a note from Anthony’s mother published in the paper wishing him a ‘Happy Birthday’ when he was in prison years and years ago, an old eye-mask from when my parents once visited us and my mom gave me the bag of freebies from the airline. I have finally replaced my knick-knacks in their proper positions, couldn’t stand looking at the shelf with them like askew reminders of a presence that didn’t belong. When I did so I felt things shift a little back to normal. Disturbed, not quite right, but then not left in the awkward space chosen by someone who doesn’t know where things go but doesn’t want to make too much of a mess, either. And I straightened the pictures on the wall, too, getting a strange satisfaction of setting them just right, a bit like the belated “Take that,” parting shot I lobbed at their laughing backs when they left. What can you do.

I’d like to thank everyone for all the well wishes, both messages to The Blanket and other places; it is appreciated and helps us not to feel so isolated.

I’d also like to point out before I go that our home was not the only home to be raided, all told 25 homes were raided last week, including ours, and Marian Price’s home was raided twice in the same week.

Some people who have called to express their support have commented that they thought the bad old days were over. Things may be happening on a much smaller scale now, but it doesn’t look like the lessons from the recent passed have been learnt very well at all.


 

 

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"As a rule, dictatorships guarantee safe streets and terror of the doorbell. In democracy the streets may be unsafe after dark, but the most likely visitor in the early hours will be the milkman."
- Adam Michnik



Index: Current Articles



20 July 2003

 

Other Articles From This Issue:

 

Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss
Anthony McIntyre

 

Sinn Fein Support for Prisoners' Demand
Mick Hall

 

Alternatives

Liam O Ruairc

 

Revenge of the Bureaucrats
Julie Brown

 

What It's Like to be Raided
Carrie Twomey

 

Raid on McIntyre Home

 

3 July 2003

 

Protest at Dundonald House
Anthony McIntyre

 

Dundonald House Protest (Photos)
Carrie Twomey

 

Conditions at Maghaberry Worsen

Lorraine Corr, relative; and statements from the IRPWA

 

Letters from Republican Prisoners
Rory O'More and Martin Brogan

 

 

 

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