Police block republican parade from Belfast city centre

Police have prevented a contentious republican parade entering Belfast city centre after it breached legal restrictions.

The anti-internment marchers had been granted permission by the Parades Commission adjudication body to pass through a main shopping thoroughfare but only before 1.30pm.

With that deadline passed, the parade was been stopped on the nationalist Oldpark Road.

On Sunday afternoon marchers stood holding placards in front of heavily armed riot police while bands played loudly.

PSNI assistant chief constable Stephen Martin called for calm.

“A substantial police operation is currently in place and we are committed to ensuring that we keep people safe and protect and uphold the rights of all those involved,” he said.

PSNI vehicles on Royal Avenue, Belfast, as a major security operation is under way in the city centre ahead of a contentious republican parade and related loyalist protests

PSNI vehicles on Royal Avenue, Belfast, as a major security operation is under way in the city centre ahead of a contentious republican parade and related loyalist protests

Speakers have begun to deliver speeches to parade participants via loud hailer at the police lines.

The parade dispersed peacefully after participants staged a rally in front of the police lines.

The cordon has now been partially lifted.

The anti-internment parade marks the introduction of internment without trial by the Stormont administration, with the support of the UK Government, during the height of the Troubles in August 1971.

PSNI vehicles on Royal Avenue, Belfast

PSNI vehicles on Royal Avenue, Belfast

The controversial policy of detaining terrorist suspects without trial ended in 1975. However, the parade organisers - the Anti-Internment League - allege it is still effectively operated by the state authorities in the present day.

Last year there were minor disturbances at the event but in 2013 almost 60 police officers were injured when loyalist protesters rioted in the city centre.