The killing of Pawel Kalite and Marius Szwajkos, unprovoked and vicious – stabbings directly to the head and neck – sent shivers of foreboding through ordinary people. Exactly one week later, the working class community in Drimnagh came out to show its revulsion. The significance of the vigil has been understated by the media. Between three to four thousand people turned out on a particularly wet and windy night.
Packed tightly together, the PA system still couldn’t reach every ear. All ages were present including many young people. It was a very working class demonstration, including many Polish people. A brief statement read by independent socialist councillor Joan Collins on behalf of the residents of Benbulben Road was followed by prayers. Five minutes of silence was respected perfectly. The sombre mood was etched on people’s faces. That the proceedings didn’t give full voice to people’s feelings was reflected by the spontaneous and prolonged applause that erupted from the crowd when they were asked to disperse. Instead of applauding some young people whistled their support for the stand the community had made.
People from working class communities, where anti social behaviour is an issue, would have been shocked but not surprised by this tragedy. That Pawel and Marius were Polish may have increased their vulnerability, but this was primarily a case of mindless anti social behaviour that had no restraints. Young people and drink was an aspect, but it hasn’t been claimed the youth involved were drunk. This sickening violence could have been directed against anyone who didn’t respond as the group of teenagers wanted. These men were attacked doing normal things, at 6.45pm in the evening, beside their home. Crucial questions for the community in Drimnagh and others around the country, are why does such violence erupt and how can it be combated?
No excuses can be made for this attack. The vast majority of young people don’t engage in anti social behaviour but a small minority do and within that minority, a layer is prone to violence. Some young people don’t get the assistance they need to cope with the increased pressures of growing up. Individualism, greed, and false images of what young men or women should be, are pushed again and again.
The education system and social services don’t do enough to stop the brutalisation of some young people and working class communities are paying the price. Incredibly nearly 20% of youth don’t complete secondary education. Time pressures, the decline in the tradition of trade union activity in the workplaces and in communities themselves is reflected by a lack of confidence and democratic community action to cut across these problems.
Community control of the police and policing priorities could also have an effect. However the large turnout at the vigil indicates the potential may exist for an active response to serious anti social behaviour and the conditions that create it.