Further unease over police clampdown on loyalist protest activity

New posters have emerged in the Co Armagh village of Markethill following police action against persons believed to have been involved in illegal parading activity.

Sunday, 16th May 2021, 6:58 pm

The posters carry the slogan: “Markethill demands fair and equitable policing – Stand up!”

They also include a picture of the Bobby Storey funeral in west Belfast last June.

Tensions have been high after several bandsmen and supporters were served notices to face police interview under caution over two recent small parades.

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Members of the loyalist community have also said they will pay close attention to how the PSNI deals with a pro-Palestinian protest in Armagh on Saturday – where more than 100 demonstrators marched through the city.

Although advertised online as a ‘vigil’ at Market Street, video footage has emerged showing the protesters chanting as they marched through the city let by an activist with a megaphone.

There is no notified parade listed for Armagh on that date on the website of the Parades Commission.

A member of the loyalist band community, who does not wish to be named, told the News Letter that he is aware of the pro-Palestinian protest on Saturday and that he will be monitoring if attracts any police attention.

“It will be interesting to see what action is taken by the police over that one,” he said.

“On the one hand we had around 2,000 people, who can easily be identified, parading through the streets of Belfast for a funeral (in June last year), and then we have police officers visiting houses [in Co Armagh] handing out notices for 20 people walking to mark the centenary of Northern Ireland.

“It just creates an atmosphere of two-tier policing and we are fed up with it,” he added.

In response to a request for comment on the Armagh city pro-Palestinian march, a PSNI spokeswoman said: “Police are aware of a number of notified and un-notified parades that took place across Northern Ireland yesterday, Saturday 15 May.

“All the footage gathered will now be reviewed and we will consider any suspected breaches of the Public Processions (NI) Act 1998 and The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2021.”

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