It was the same street, same lodges, same bands and even the same parade, but Saturday’s protest was as different from the scenes on the evening of the Twelfth as chalk from cheese.
Thousands of supporters turned out along the Shankill Road and Woodvale Road as the three Ligoniel lodges who have been banned from their traditional return route along the Crumlin Road took a stand against the Parades Commission’s ruling.
When the parade was halted by police lines on the Woodvale Road, the view was of a street completely filled with people as far as the eye could see. PSNI Land Rovers blocked the road around half a mile from the Ardoyne roundabout where around 100 nationalists milled around the shop fronts. However, the police line were regular uniformed officers, not the riot squad. A line of Orange Order marshals stood between the front of the parade and police.
The mood was calm but determined as the Pride of Ardoyne Flute Band struck up their signature tune, as well as a number of other crowd favourites such as The Sash while brethren took their stand.
Michael Crosby from the band seemed emotional at one point as he addressed the crowd from on top of a white van looking down at the huge crowds who had come out to support them, and said they had received messages of support from across Northern Ireland as well as England and Scotland. He urged supporters not to engage in violence, but called for “thousands” to come out and support their bid to “get home”, adding: “This is only the start of it”.
“Last week was only a wee tester, it all starts today, this is where it starts for our people of north Belfast. We want to get home.”
Mr Crosby, who is from Ardoyne, said his band will not play the National Anthem to finish the parade that day, adding that they will not play it until they finally get to finish their parade and are back at Ligoniel Orange Hall.
After around an hour, the Orange Order marshals had the road cleared, and despite the huge numbers the demonstration remained entirely peaceful.