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
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

Recruitment Genius: Direct Mail Machine Operative

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for an i...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Accounts Executive

£14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity for the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Administrator / Secretary - South East

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time Administrator/Secreta...

Recruitment Genius: Parts Advisor

£16500 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the leading Mercedes-Ben...

Day In a Page

Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa corruption: The officials are caught in the web of US legal imperialism - where double standards don't get in the way

Caught in the web of legal imperialism

The Fifa officials ensnared by America's extraterritorial authority are only the latest examples of this fearsome power, says Rupert Cornwell
Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Why the cost of parenting has become so expensive

Today's pre-school child costs £35,000, according to Aviva. And that's but the tip of an iceberg, says DJ Taylor
Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert