Alarmed by the rising spirit of political radicalism, Derry’s Catholic bishop, Dr. Neil Farren, warned young Catholics in an Easter 1968 pastoral letter, “not to be led by the mob.”
Poster for 5 October march. The poster was printed in red, white and blue in an attempt to attract working class Protestants to join the march.
In August, NICRA organised the north’s first civil rights march, from Coalisland to Dungannon. The police sealed off Dungannon town centre. A violent confrontation – fairly mild by later standards – made news headlines north and south.
Members of the DHAC contacted NICRA, asking for endorsement for a civil rights march in the city. An ad-hoc organising committee came together. This comprised representatives of the DHAC, the Derry branch of the NILP, the NILP Young Socialists, the Republican Clubs and the James Connolly Society. The march was scheduled for Saturday 5 October.
On 3 October, the Stormont Government banned the march under public order legislation. On 4 October, the ad-hoc committee faced down NICRA’s Belfast leadership and others and voted to defy the ban.
Police arrest civil rights marcher in Duke Street, 5 October 1968
The march, perhaps 500 strong, including Queen’s University, Belfast, students, was trapped between police lines, then battered and hosed off Duke Street in the Waterside.
Only a minority of Derry anti-Unionists had backed the march. But rage at the police violence now gave it majority endorsement in retrospect.