PSNI come under attack from youths throwing bottles and bricks in Belfast

Police have come under attack during disturbances in a loyalist area of south Belfast.

Friday, 2nd April 2021, 9:29 pm
Updated Friday, 2nd April 2021, 10:49 pm
PSNI officers in riot gear push flag protestors back into the Sandy Row area of south Belfast this evening as they reportedly took to the streets to protest about the PPS decision not to prosecute anyone involved in the Bobby Storey funeral last June. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.

Officers were targeted in the Sandy Row area by a crowd of mostly young people throwing bottles and bricks.

The incident started in the Shaftesbury Square area before moving into nearby Sandy Row.

A PSNI spokesman said: “Police are currently in attendance at an ongoing incident, involving a gathering of people, in the Sandy Row/Donegall Pass area of Belfast.”

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Disorder at the scene in Sanyd Road tonight. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.

There were reports from the ground that PSNI officers in riot gear pushed ‘flag protestors’ back into the Sandy Row area of south Belfast this evening as they reportedly took to the streets to protest about the PPS decision not to prosecute anyone involved in the Bobby Storey funeral last June.

The loyalists on the ground reportedly said they were calling for the PSNI to be dismantled while also telling the political leaders in Stormont that “the lockdown is dead”.

South Belfast DUP MLA Christopher Stalford said tonight: “Given the actions of the Deputy First Minister some folks may believe that they can break the rules. That is not the case two wrongs don’t make a right.

“The vast majority of people involved in this incident were under the age of 18. I do not want to see young people, acting out of frustration at recent developments landing themselves in trouble with the law and ending up with criminal records. Everyone must be equal under the law and equally subject to it, from the highest office holder in the land to every other citizen.”

Scenes from Sandy Row trouble tonight. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.

In response to the incident, Ulster Unionist MLA Doug Beattie tweeted: “Stop please……. this is not going to help anyone or change anything. It damages and endangers your own community, it undermines any grievance you might have and it will achieve nothing.”

South Belfast MP Claire Hanna said it was “Sad to see disorder in Sandy Row”.

She tweeted: “Usual suspects with no vision whip up tension for electoral gain, which they never use to improve life for those they pretend to represent. History repeats, people lose hope, kids get criminal records, communities pull apart. There’s a better way.”

Justice Minister Naomi Long tweeted a similar message: “This is in no-one’s best interests - not the officers dealing with it and not the mostly young people risking their futures by engaging in it.

Loyalists take part in a protest at Shaftsbury Square near Sandy Row in south Belfast as the PSNI moved in to disperse the crowd. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

“It’s incumbent on leaders to behave responsibly and dial down the inflammatory rhetoric over recent days. Words have consequences.”

Sinn Fein’s MP in the west of the city, Paul Maskey, condemned the rioting.

“This evening we have unfortunately seen running skirmishes between young people and the PSNI in the Sandy Row area following a protest that was organised by loyalists against the protocol,” he said.

“It is always sad to see young people being used by sinister elements to advance their regressive agenda.

“It is also deeply concerning to see these types of incidents at the height of the COVID pandemic and as we are beginning to make good progress.

“The DUP and political unionism are failing unionist working class communities through their dangerous and irresponsible rhetoric which is continuing to lead to heightened tensions.

“This is a time for calm heads and responsible leadership.

“I appeal to the DUP and political unionism to show leadership, to end their dangerous rhetoric and to ensure there is an urgent de-escalation of tensions.”

The Police Federation for Northern Ireland tweeted about the violence tonight under the hashtag #WeAreYou.

“Once again the outworkings of political flux in Northern Ireland results in our PSNI colleagues being attacked,” it said. “No excuse for violence and condemnation across the political spectrum would be welcome.”

Police in north Belfast said there had also been some disorder earlier for a time in Lanark Way.

There were also unconfirmed reports of ‘flag protestors’ demonstrating in Ballymena tonight, but no reports of any trouble.

The news comes after several nights of similar disorder from youths in the Waterside area of Londonderry, during which petrol bombs and masonry were thrown at police officers.

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