Free Derry (Full Version)

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2012 – Free Derry documents the rise and fall of an autonomous, nationalist, Irish Catholic area of Northern Ireland from 1969-1972.  The region “broke away” from the UK in response to lingering British colonialism.  Protestants gerrymandered political districts, the British army and police used excessive violence against Catholics, and Catholics faced discrimination in employment and access to public services.  Through interviews, photographs, and murals, Free Derry tells a little known story of the fight for equal rights for Catholics in Derry.

More background from Wikipedia:

Free Derry (Irish: SaorDhoire) was a self-declared autonomous nationalist area of Derry, Northern Ireland, between 1969 and 1972. Its name was taken from a sign painted on a gable wall in the Bogside in January 1969 which read, “You are now entering Free Derry”. The area, which included the Bogside and Creggan neighbourhoods, was secured by community activists for the first time on 5 January 1969 following an incursion into the Bogside by members of the police force, the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). Residents built barricades and carried clubs and similar arms to prevent the RUC from entering. After six days the residents took down the barricades and police patrols resumed, but tensions remained high over the following months.

Violence reached a peak on 12 August 1969, culminating in the Battle of the Bogside—a three day pitched battle between residents and police. On 14 August units of the British Army were deployed at the edge of the Bogside and the police were withdrawn. The Derry Citizens Defence Association (DCDA) declared their intention to hold the area against both the police and the army until their demands were met. The army made no attempt to enter the area. The situation continued until October 1969 when, following publication of the Hunt Report, military police were allowed in.

The Irish Republican Army (IRA) began to re-arm and recruit after August 1969. In January 1970 it split into the Official IRA and the Provisional IRA. Both were supported by the people of the Free Derry area. Meanwhile, relations between the British Army and the nationalist community, which were initially good, deteriorated. In July 1971 there was a surge of recruitment into the IRA after two young men were shot and killed by British troops. The government introduced internment on 9 August 1971, and in response, barricades went up once more in the Bogside and Creggan. This time, Free Derry was a no-go area, defended by armed members of both the Official and Provisional IRA. From within the area they mounted gun attacks on the army, and the Provisionals began a bombing campaign in the city centre. As before, unarmed ‘auxiliaries’ manned the barricades, and crime was dealt with by a voluntary body known as the Free Derry Police.

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