The police assault on the march splashed the truth of unionist rule onto television screens across the world.
A few hundred marched in October, ten thousand in November.
On 3 October, the Stormont Government banned the march under public order legislation.
On 4 October, the march committee faced down NICRA’s Belfast leadership and others by voting to defy the ban.
The march, perhaps 500 strong, was attempted on 5 October, but marchers were trapped between police lines, then battered and hosed off Duke Street. The RTE film footage of the attack spread the truth of unionist misrule onto television screens across the world.
Only a minority of Derry anti-Unionists had backed the march. But public rage at the police violence now gave it majority endorsement in retrospect.
Belfast Telegraph, 27 November 1968.
The 15-strong Derry Citizens’ Action Committee (DCAC) was formed, including Catholic and Protestant businessmen and most of the 5 October organisers.
Derry women protested against the all-male make-up of the DCAC. Shiela McGuinness was co-opted in response, reflecting the first stirrings of the women’s liberation movement in Ireland. Queen’s University students formed People’s Democracy to push ahead through direct action for civil rights.
A 15,000-strong DCAC march along the 5 October route passed peacefully. There were large NICRA demonstrations elsewhere.
On 22 November, O’Neill’s government responded by proposing limited reforms, including a review of the Special Powers Act, the abolition of Londonderry Corporation and universal local government franchise. Anti-reform unionists within O’Neill’s party pledged resistance. Dr. Ian Paisley led street-protests against change and foretold bloodshed.
The DCAC called a moratorium on marches to give O’Neill’s proposals a chance. But on New Years Day, People’s Democracy set out to march from Belfast to Derry. Marchers were repeatedly attacked by loyalists. At Burntollet, outside Derry, police joined in the assault.
Marchers injured when loyalists and B Specials attacked the People’s Democracy march from Belfast to Derry in January 1969. Centre is Tommy Carlin.
The Bogside was outraged. Youths barricaded the area. In the early hours of the morning a police invasion met mass resistance.