'Loyalist mob' injures 10 police officers during Portadown riot

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The Independent Online

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) last night defended tactics used in dealing with orchestrated violence in Portadown that has been blamed on loyalists and left 10 officers injured.

A police spokeswoman said the force had been aware of the risk of violence after loyalists began circulating texts calling for a show of strength that led to a three-hour riot.

A 19-year-old man has been charged with assaulting a police officer plus public order offences, while a 31-year-old man has been released on bail pending further police investigations into the violence that occurred after crowds gathered at midnight in Portadown.

The teenager is to appear at Craigavon Magistrates Court on 18 December.

Police said 10 officers were hurt and vehicles were damaged after trouble flared in the Mandeville Street and West Street area.

Social Democratic Labour Party (SDLP) Upper Bann Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) Dolores Kelly said: “Two weeks ago we warned that texts were circulating calling on all loyalists to gather for a show of force in the centre of the town at pub closing time.

“This was incredibly stupid, incredibly provocative and the purpose was made absolutely clear in the texts which we forwarded to the media — to intimidate nationalists and lay claim to ownership of the town centre.

“As far as I have heard the police were prepared and were able to move the mob back and generally control the situation. But the fundamental point is that a very substantial group of people are determined to deny access to the town centre for all.”

A PSNI spokeswoman said its response had been “appropriate and proportionate”.

“This was an illegal protest, however police had been made aware of texts circulating in the Portadown area earlier in the week,” she said.

The Garvaghy Road Residents Coalition said serious questions needed to be asked regarding PSNI tactics.

Spokesman Breandán Mac Cionnaith said: “It has been a well-known fact for some time that loyalists were planning to gather in Portadown on Saturday night.

“By permitting this intimidatory mob to assemble last night in the first place the PSNI ensured a clear message was sent out signalling that Portadown town centre is not a welcome or safe place at night for Catholics or nationalists.”

Source: The Belfast Telegraph