Between 1 and 2pm local time, young school children were stabbed in Parnell square by a single assailant. We were less than a mile away at John Mulligan’s pub at the time; learned about the stabbing on the news during the afternoon.
Not yet aware of events, we went by Parnell Square about 90 minutes later. A few dozen men aged 20-40 were cursing at the police (gardai). Presumably they were locals given that several were yelling in Gaelic.
About 3 blocks south from Parnell Square is the OConnell bridge, the one nearest Trinity College, where at 8pm two buses and a police car were set on fire. We were on Fleet Street, which is about 2 blocks west. We heard helicopters, which suggested trouble although many tourists and locals were still conducting business as usual. As we walked down Fleet Street, in the direction of the bridge, a couple of white teens pushed passed us wearing black face masks and wearing at least 2 empty backpacks each.
I thought about telling the teens that face masks are for criminals. Undoubtedly they were criminals about to commence looting, which was occurring about that time at about five merchants near the bridge. The criminals did not look like poor people and certainly were not emerging from a poor neighborhood.
We saw merchants calmly removing merchandise from their shelves, as if they were instructed to do so or were following a precautionary drill. Trinity College was being evacuated, said a Trinity College staffer as we briskly walked past. Students were flowing out of the campus. I asked a few where they were evacuating to and they said “home, away from here.” Several minutes later we would learn that our hotel lobby, about 3/4 mile west, was locked as a precaution.
A block west of Trinity College we saw many police. They seemed organized, but quite nervous.
Note that the fires and looting are unprecedented in recent Dublin history yet the merchants and criminals seem prepared. This fact pattern suggests to me that maybe law enforcement had intelligence about organized retail crime and in prior weeks had warned merchants about that capability.
The chaos has been attributed to “misinformation” (about the knife assailant’s nationality) and “right-wing” political sentiments. Regardless of whether any advance warning, this looks like organized crime rather than anything political.
We saw a bus burning and smelled smoke throughout the area within a quarter mile of Trinity College.
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