Jamie Bryson: Flag protesters would have been arrested had we carried replica weapons

Loyalist protester Jamie Bryson has urged the Parades Commission and PSNI to investigate anti-Brexit border protests which saw people dressed as in camouflage outfits with replica weapons and mock customs officers manning checkpoints.

Saturday, 6th April 2019, 8:00 am
Updated Monday, 8th April 2019, 2:37 pm
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 26th January 2019 Ahead of the Brexit deadline and the question over what will happen to the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland the group Border Communities Against Brexit came together on the old Dublin Road outside Newry where they staged a protest. The made a mock British Army border checkpoint man by British soldiers as it once would have looked during the troubles which they proceeded to knock down. They also staged a mock costumes post. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

Last Saturday saw Sinn Fein-promoted protests over Brexit at eight points along the border where people dressed as mock soldiers and customs officers manned mock vehicle checkpoints.

After playing a leading role in Province wide flag protests, Mr Bryson was jailed in 2015 for taking part in unlawful public processions and obstructing traffic.

He was angered about the border protests after the PSNI rejected concerns raised by UUP MLA Doug Beattie and a former PSNI officer. The ex-policeman said protestors may have been committing offences included provocative conduct, obstructive sitting, wearing uniforms for political purposes and carrying a firearm or imitation firearm in public.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The PSNI said organisers had notified and engaged with them in advance and that after monitoring the protests, they passed off without incident.

Mr Bryson said: “I find that just astonishing. If during the flag protests we had been carrying replica automatic weapons I have no doubt we would have been arrested immediately.”

When he was convicted, he said, the legal definition of a public procession was said to include “three people walking on a footpath”.

He has now written to the PSNI and Parades Commission to probe the protests.

The PSNI responded that none of the protests qualified as processions or parades.

Chief Superintendent Simon Walls said: “Police maintained an appropriate presence at a number of locations on Saturday afternoon and any protests that took place in Northern Ireland passed off without incident and no roads were blocked, nor were there any identification checks made during them.

“No offences were detected at any of the protests in Northern Ireland and we have received no reports of criminal activity in relation to them.

“The majority of the protests took place in the Republic of Ireland.”

The Parades Commission said that static protests are only regulated by parading legislation if they are associated with parades.