following the Battle of the Bogside, residents took it upon themselves to maintain and defend their community; the official government certainly wasn’t doing anything to their benefit. the name “Free Derry” comes from a tag written on a gable wall by a resident walking past in January 1969, when organized resistance to incursions by the police force first developed in earnest. the phrase was seized upon and came to symbolize resistance to external policing forces (both local and British). it was formalized on that gable wall, painted and repainted in letters large enough to see from a distance. when the row houses extending from this gable were torn down, the community requested that this wall remain as a memorial to Free Derry and events that occurred in Derry during the Troubles.
during a three year period, residents organized police patrols, issued permits to trade in the community (for those making deliveries from outside Free Derry), and provided services that the local government had failed to sufficiently extend to the Catholic community; it was a no-go area protected by both the Official and Provisional IRA. despite best efforts, however, Free Derry came to an end with Operation Motorman in July 1972, when British troops stormed the Bogside (as well as no-go areas in Belfast) (more on that to come, I think).
(an aside: the relationship between the Official and Provisional IRA in Derry was not nearly as contentious as elsewhere in the North. neither group had control over barricades, and the Provisionals had few weapons. also, unlike in Belfast where Provisional bombing campaigns killed civilians in addition to causing structural and economic damage, that in Derry is noted for avoiding death or injury to innocent civilians. as Eamonn McCann wrote, “the Derry Provos, under Martin McGuinness [now Deputy First Minister for Northern Ireland under the power-sharing government], had managed to bomb the city centre until it looked as if it had been hit from the air without causing any civilian casualties.”)