Billy Hutchinson calls for loyalists to beware ‘walking into a trap’ by attending protests arranged on social media - ‘people need to be vigilant about who is organising it’
PUP leader Billy Hutchinson has appealed for loyalists to beware calls to protest being made on social media.
Speaking to the News Letter the former UVF leader and PUP Councillor for the Greater Shankill Area said: “I am seeing calls to protest on social media but the organisers name is not on it.”
The senior loyalist added that “some people would argue that they can’t because they would be arrested but they are doing it on fake accounts which have no trace”.
Mr Hutchinson added: “My problem is that we had one the other night calling for people to go to interfaces. What I am saying to people is that could be put up by anybody, so you could be walking into a trap.
“Please be careful.”
He added: “I cannot remember a protest organised by loyalists that was not infiltrated.
“A couple of times it was infiltrated by people connected to the security services and the problem with that is that it takes it off in the wrong direction because it always ends in violence”.
Mr Hutchinson said he was aware of the social media posts from ‘United Unionist of Ulster’ which cited ‘a plan for the people’ - “but again we don’t know who is organising this and if it is genuine”.
“I have tried to talk to other unionist parties to say if protests are going to happen you have to try to make sure that it is peaceful and the places they go are relevant,” he added.
“I have been arguing that this is a political problem and it needs a political solution.
“Everyone has the right to protest but they also have a responsibility of how they do that.
“During Covid we saw that the people who made the laws broke the laws and we need to be careful and approach it in a different way.
“They have to figure out where they are going to protest and how they are going to do it”.
He added: “I don’t know how this will go forward unless people decide to organise protests in their own areas through people who are known.
“People need to be vigilant about who is organising it so they are not walking into a trap.
“It should be organised from within their own community and it has to be managed.
“They need to be clear about who they are inviting to protests.
“The ones I see being organised on social media are not interested in what happens to people when they get there - they are only interested in creating a protest where people are angry and frustrated, and rightly so, and you know what happens then... you have a disturbance on your hands.
“Police are stuck in the middle of this all the time.
“Senior police need to be clear about what they are going to do around these protests.
“Before holding a protest people should talk to the police to tell them what they are there for and what they are going to do and then at least the police will know what is going on.
“It is useful but then again a lot of people don’t want to talk to the police.”
He added that he didn’t condemn the violence of youth which started after recent protests last week because “I was that young person getting involved in riots”.
“It was never reported but our people were out on the ground and there was about 12 women and a lot of kids in the area before riots started,” he added.
“The mothers got the kids out of the way before the riots started and took them away. These are 10-13 year olds. We ahve all this talk about parents not knowing where their children are - but many do”.
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