Massive crowds surged into the streets of Dublin, Ireland, on Saturday to protest an impending proposed water tax. Local media reported that the number of protesters was anywhere between 50,000 to 100,000 people. Local police refused to confirm an exact number to the media, and said that they would not be making any kind of an estimate.
The water tax protest was peaceful (apart from some angry yelling), and there were no reported arrests as of Sunday evening, Ireland time. However, it did cause gridlock.
The huge protests were over a proposed specific tax just for water. Until now, residents in Ireland have paid for water through a general tax. If the measure is successful, it would cost the people of Ireland the equivalent of several hundred U.S. dollars a year per household, an amount that many say they simply cannot afford. The new water tax would start at the beginning of 2015.
Many people are threatening to simply not pay the tax, which would put their water supply at risk, a strikingly similar situation to what has been happening in Detroit, Michigan, with their water supply.
A local politician told the Irish publication The Journal that the last time he’d seen such a huge crowd in a protest was in 2003, when there was a march against the war in Iraq.
“The atmosphere was great today, so many people have taken part from all over the country,” said the politician, South Dublin County Councillor Gino Kenny. “This is just the start of a much larger campaign. We mustn’t lose momentum, this is when people need to stand together.”
Kino also told The Journal that it’s a sign of “big trouble” for the government that such a huge crowd turned out to protest Ireland’s new proposed water tax. The Irish are already heavily levied for a number of other items, including pension and a variety of other services.
Other politicians and leaders joined the protests, publicly spoke out against the government, and demanded that the rights of citizens be taken more seriously. In one of those speeches, politician Clare Daly called fair access to water a “human right.”
“This day will go down in history as the day that the people decided to roar,” Daly told the crowd, as reported by the Irish publication The Independent. “We are here in our tens of thousands to say water is a human right, based on need, not an ability to pay.”
Some people in the crowd echoed similar sentiments with signs stating that “water tax will sink households” during a three-hour march that encircled Dublin’s city center. Another protest is planned for November 1, just ahead of a vote on the Ireland water tax referendum.
People also took to Twitter to post photos of the massive protests.