Police chief condemns 'mindless anarchy' after 56 officers are injured in Belfast protests

Police came under sustained attack by crowds 'intent on creating disorder'

Northern Ireland's top policeman has condemned "mindless anarchy and sheer thuggery", after loyalist protests in Belfast turned violent yesterday, injuring 56 police officers.

The demonstration was against a republican parade marking the introduction of internment in 1971.

The protesters hurled bricks, bottles and fireworks at police before the parade arrived. Some cars were set on fire in the North Street area, and shops were damaged.

Police used rubber bullets, water cannon and dogs to control the crowds, which prevented the parade from passing as planned along Royal Avenue - one of the city's main shopping areas, near City Hall. Five of the injured officers needed hospital treatment.

And today Matt Baggott, Chief Constable of the PSNI, said: "I know that 99 per cent, if not more, of the population will stand with me in utterly condemning those who scarred the reputation of our beautiful city last night.

"Those people had no intention of peaceful protest, they lack self respect and they lack dignity."

He added: "The only voices we should hear now are those unequivocally condemning the violence and supporting fully the actions of the police and the rule of law and I don't want to hear any excuses for the disgraceful scenes that took place last night, because quite frankly there aren't any."

And the country's Justice Minister insisted there can be no excuse for the violence which often plagues the city's streets.

David Ford said: "Violence is wrong and no cause, no dispute, no disagreement can justify it.

"There were no winners last night, but I know there will be losers amongst the retailers and communities directly affected. I am confident that over the coming days and weeks those involved in the violence will be the main losers as the police begin gathering evidence and carrying out arrests."

Police say they have so far arrested seven people, but have warned that many more will follow.

Some loyalists accused the police of being heavy-handed.

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton defended his officers, saying: "Whilst facilitating the Parades Commission determination for tonight's parade and associated protests, police have come under heavy and sustained attack by crowds intent on creating disorder."

The two crowds later confronted each other about 100 metres apart in north Belfast - police said the worst violence was in the Carrickhill, Peter's Hill and Millfield areas close to the city centre.

The parade then passed into west Belfast after protesters were pushed back towards the Shankill area.

Nelson McCausland, the DUP Minister for Social Development, said the republican parade was deliberately provocative.

He said: "We warned the secretary of state, the PSNI and the Parades Commission that this would happen but they ignored our warnings.

"They misjudged the situation and the image of Belfast has suffered badly. That is particularly frustrating because what happened was entirely avoidable.

"Tonight was a bad night for Belfast."

The Ulster Unionist Party said its assembly member Michael Copeland had made a complaint to police that he was assaulted by an officer.

Mr Copeland said: "There was an elderly woman, I would say she was 75, standing in front of me with her back to the police, she was being repeatedly pushed by shields. When I stepped forward to intervene I was kicked by a police officer.

"I have a very old injury which means I walk with a very pronounced limp and I was kicked repeatedly on that leg and stamped on that foot."

He said police also hit his wife and daughter with batons.

The police said they are aware of the allegation and have referred the incident to the Police Ombudsman.

The latest disorder comes after eight officers were injured when trouble flared at a republican anti-internment bonfire near the city centre on Thursday night. Eight people were arrested and at one point, as violence spread to north Belfast, officers were attacked by a man wielding a sword.

The city is currently hosting thousands of international visitors attending the World Police and Fire Games.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015