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‘Mindless anarchy’: N. Ireland police pledge sweeping arrests after 56 officers hurt in Belfast riots

Published time: August 10, 2013 19:17

People draped with the Union flags walk past a burning car after loyalist protesters attacked the police with bricks and bottles as they waited for a republican parade to make its way through Belfast City Centre August 9, 2013. (Reuters/Cathal McNaughton)

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Scores of loyalists attacked riot police protecting a parade of IRA supporters in Belfast, injuring 56 officers and two civilians. Northern Ireland’s police chief said the local prisons will be “bulging” because the “anarchic” scenes were caught on tape.

Northern Ireland Chief Constable Matt Baggott has utterly condemned the Protestant extremists who are responsible for the violent clashes with the police. He urged all politicians to voice their condemnation for the riots, which he described as “mindless anarchy and sheer thuggery.”

Thousands of loyalist extremists on Friday intervened with an Irish republican hard-liners’ march taking place in the middle of a busy commercial street in downtown Belfast. According to statements made by Protestant politicians, the march should never have been authorized by security officials. Some of the politicians have called the march “deliberately provocative.”

But according to Baggott, the loyalists had “no intention of peaceful protest,” reportedly confronting riot police in the Royal Avenue area even before the republicans approached.

A loyalist protester pushes a garbage dumpster, that has been set alight, during clashes with the police as they wait for a republican parade to make its way through Belfast City Centre, August 9, 2013. (Reuters/Cathal McNaughton)

The violence began as sporadic scuffles between police and Protestants who hurled rocks and fireworks. The conflict quickly intensified, with salvos of rocks and bottles being thrown by the Protestants and the arriving Irish republican marchers. 

The street then descended into chaos, as rioters used all makeshift means to break through the police cordon. Such efforts included using vehicles to break through the police barrier, as well as setting garbage dumpsters on fire before wheeling them into officers.

“You saw the scaffolding poles, the metal gratings from the drains, the breaking up of paving slabs, people on roof tops trying to burn houses, people trying to set light to vans and cars and trying to drive them at police lines,”
Baggott said.

Scores of police and two civilians were injured in the chaotic violence. Four officers were said to be treated in hospital.

A police officer is tended to by a colleague after Loyalist protesters attacked the police with bricks and bottles as they waited for a republican parade to make its way through Belfast City Centre, August 9, 2013. (Reuters/Cathal McNaughton)

Police used batons and water cannon to disperse the crowd. They also fired 26 non-lethal plastic bullets, according to official reports.

The organizers of the republican rally, which marked the anniversary of the British government’s 1971 introduction of internment without trial in Northern Ireland to halt the growing activity of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), had to eventually change the parade’s route, marching away from downtown Belfast.

Smaller direct clashes between the loyalists and republicans were later reported in other parts of Belfast, as the city center was left littered with burnt out cars, rubble, and damaged shops.

People run past a burning car after loyalist protesters attacked the police with bricks and bottles as they waited for a republican parade to make it's way through Belfast City Centre, August 9, 2013. (Reuters/Cathal McNaughton)

Seven rioters were arrested Friday night for attacks on police and the hijacking of cars, the police chief said, assuring that “many more [arrests] will follow.” He noted that more than 500 rioters - mostly Protestants confronting police in the streets - had already been charged and convicted for earlier acts of street violence in December, January, and July.

Meanwhile, the region’s senior politicians have joined Baggott in condemnation of the Friday violence.

“Whatever people think about the merits of the parade or the views of the people taking part in the parade, the rule of law has to be respected,”
said Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers, calling the riots “shameful.”

Loyalist protesters attack the police as they wait for a republican parade to make its way through Belfast City Centre, August 9, 2013. (Reuters/Cathal McNaughton)

The loyalists responded by accusing the police of heavy-handedness, some claiming they were assaulted by police.

Belfast remains divided between pro-British Protestants and Catholics who mostly favor unification with Ireland, despite a 1998 peace and power-sharing deal that put an end to the worst of the violence.

A man covers a wound to his head after loyalist protesters attacked the police with bricks and bottles as they waited for a republican parade to make its way through Belfast City Centre, August 9, 2013. (Reuters/Cathal McNaughton)

The violence comes as both Irish Catholics and British Protestants mount more divisive parades, using both historical causes and recent events or legislations as reasons to take to the streets.

During the 1971 events marked by republicans by their Friday rally, British soldiers swept into Catholic districts and arrested more than 340 people as the UK government sought to halt growing IRA’s influence and violent acts aimed at extinguishing rule from London.

Police officers patrol the streets after loyalist protesters attacked the police with bricks and bottles as they waited for a republican parade to make its way through Belfast City Centre, August 9, 2013. (Reuters/Cathal McNaughton)

Comments (13)

 

MB 18.08.2013 04:52

I cannot understand this bigotry within our Island. Take a good look around yourself, you may become an minority here in the future.

 

Donald Ray 11.08.2013 19:21

Public officials really need to quit misusing the term "anarchy". I'm sure both the loyalists and the republicans have leaders. In a true anarchic situation, there would be neither loyalists nor republicans which would most likely make more a much more peaceful situation all 'round.

 

Michael Morgan 11.08.2013 11:01

Ireland should be for the Irish and not for the occupiers and imperialists. Loyalists ARE the problem here. The Irish Republic will prevail as will the faith of our fathers.

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