Friday, May 29, 2009

Free Derry

The public entrance to the PSNI's Waterside Police Station.

Students inspect a PSNI armored Land Rover inside the station compound.

We began this morning with a visit to the Police Service of Northern Ireland's Waterside Station. This fortress-like compound was built in the 1980s with high walls around the perimeter and a main building designed to withstand mortar and grenade attacks. A constable of the PSNI explained the changes in policing during his 15-year career, revealing the current tension between "normal" policing and the ability to quickly respond to potentially violent incidents.

We then toured the Free Derry Museum and met with director John Kelly. The museum provides an outstanding account of the background to the Derry civil rights marches and culminates in the events of January 30, 1972: Bloody Sunday. Our time at the museum was particularly emotional as John shared the story of his younger brother, who was shot and killed by British troops on Bloody Sunday.

After lunch, we stopped by the gallery operated by the three "people's artists" who painted Derry's well-known political mural. One of the artists described the process through which the murals came into being, and told us a bit about the role of public art in resolution of the conflict.

The weather in Derry was fantastic today, and we took advantage of it by grilling out at our hostel. Hopefully the weather will hold out tomorrow for our tour of the city walls and the Bogside.

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