It has been the battle of the operations on Twitter with flag protests determined to grind the Province to a halt by waging Operation Standstill/Shutdown, and worried commuters making plans to avoid getting stuck in traffic by going out to pubs and restaurants after work in a move which has been nicknamed ‘Operation Sitin’.
Belfast restaurant Mourne Seafood @mourneseafood even joined in the battle, tweeting: “Operation chowder under way”, and Manuel The Waiter @ManuelTheWaiter tweeted: “Is there nothing to be said for Operation run around like you are eight years old #notstandingstill”.
#Belfast has been trending on Twitter worldwide today as a series of protests have been planned to take place across Northern Ireland at Friday rush hour between 6-8pm.
The demonstrations are mostly being held around Belfast, including arterial routes such as the Malone Road, Albertbridge Road and the Shore Road.
Protests are also taking place in Antrim, Ballyclare, Ballymoney, Carrickfergus, Dundonald, Dunmurray, Glengormley, Larne, Newtownabbey, Whitehead, Ballynahinch, Bangor, Greyabbey, Kilkeel, Coleraine, Garvagh, Magherafelt, Londonderry, Newbuildings and Portadown among other locations.
On the Keep the Union flag flying over Belfast City Hall Facebook page, the message was posted: “Today Northern Ireland is coming to a standstill. The news have stated most work force is being let home early so no excuse why we shouldn’t have more people on the roads tonight to make this successful and peaceful so I would like to ask everyone getting out early to make an effort! Peacefully!”
Northern Protestant @Protestant1973 articulated how many of the protesters feel on Twitter, tweeting “It’s quite straightforward, we are being cleansed of our heritage and our basic rights being ignored”,
Ceara Nissa McCurdy @CearaNissa gloomily tweeted: “Seems like Operation Standstill will be back on again - It’s Friday night, please let me get home! #flegs”, and BarryMurphy @BazMcNaz tweeted angrily: “Finishing work early because of the track suit brigade. Keep on keeping on, you filthy bunch of scoundrels. #flegs”
But Scott Edgar @thesneakybandit, clearly a supported of Operation Sitin, tweeted: “Get dinner, get drinks, get drunk, get dancing, get a kebab, get home safe. Show ‘em who’s boss! #belfast #flegs #operationsitin”.
From another perspective soldier Doug Beattie @BeattieDoug tweeted: “I’ve spent 31 years serving my country at home and overseas. I don’t need a flag to remind me I’m a Loyal British subject #Flegs #wiseup”, and journalist Chris Ryder @Chrisryder47 tweeted: “The Union Flag has been so widely dishonoured by the ‘flegs’ protesters over last month that they have lost all integrity and credibility”.
Protester Jamie Bryson said he expected 68 protests to start from late afternoon.
He set Twitter ablaze on Friday lunch time when he took part in a News Letter webchat about the event.
Jamie stressed the “People’s Revolution” had no one organiser and belongs to the people on the ground.
“This movement at the moment belongs to the people on the ground. I will not be joining any mainstream political party at this time as I feel the ordinary people have a wide scope of opinions and I want everyone to have the chance to have their voice heard.”
Journalists from rival publications even took part in the webchat, with Irish News political reporter John Manley asking Jamie “Can you put a figure on the number of people actively supporting your revolution? - It seems at best to be in the 100s. It’s easy to slabber on facebook/twitter - I should know.”
Jamie responded simply: “This is not ‘my’ revolution. These protests belong to the people and no one person or group has control over the people. Alot of protests are organised over social media and its important to keep in mind the ‘social media revolution’ in a global sense. In the past number of years we have seen a number of governments overthrown by protests which started by a text message or facebook status.”
As one of the people most associated with protests in the media, Jamie has had the dubious honour of becoming the victim of a parody account on Twitter. King Jamie’s Version @JamieBwyson has attracted 33 followers so far.
News Letter columnist Alex Kane lightened the mood on Twitter by saying “Is it just me or does Jamie Bryson look like TinTin?”.
While Daisy @Happy_Dais was more concerned about whether her dinner would be able to arrive and tweeted: “Belfast... Flags... Riots... Protests... etc. It’s just not ok when it interferes with Friday nights pizza delivery though #priorities”.