Large loyalist protest parade against Irish Sea Border takes place in Coleraine
A large loyalist protest has taken place in Coleraine tonight in protest at the Irish Sea customs border.
Organisers have also said they are protesting at what they say is “two-tier policing”.
There are no reports of any violence.
One eye witness said there were up to 500 people taking part.
He said that there were accents in the crowd from different parts of Northern Ireland.
“They started at Harbour Hill and then down to the High Street for a lap of the town and then back again,” he said.
“The police were there with a huge billboard warning that this was an illegal parade and advising them to disperse or face possible prosecution.
“But it was actually very light touch policing. There were a couple of Land Rovers there with CCTV cameras and a few police officers on bicycles. But it all passed off without incident.”
The ‘protest march’ had been announced on social media earlier this week.
The announcement said: “The Loyalist Coalition invite the entire Loyalist community and all Loyal orders to attend a protest march in Coleraine on Friday 30 April.
“Meeting at Harpurshill shops at 6.45pm moving off at 7pm.
“We will not accept the Northern Ireland protocol and the border in the Irish Sea which goes against the Good Friday Agreement. We will not accept two tier policing. We demand equal British citizenship along with the rest of the UK.
“This protest will be peaceful, those intent on violence can stay at home. Social distancing will apply. Come and make a stand for your country.”
Street protests across NI began at Easter after prosecutors decided not to take any action in relation to apparent breaches of Covid-19 regulations at the funeral of senior IRA figure Bobby Storey in west Belfast in June.
Most protests have been peaceful however police say 100 officers have been injured during riots.
Police say they have been gathering evidence for possible prosecutions. Unnotified parades are illegal and Covid-19 regulations do not yet appear to allow parades.
Baroness Hoey warned the House of Lords this week that such parades would increase over the summer and that there was a risk of violence.
East Londonderry Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald said tonight that the PSNI must take action against illegal loyalist parades.
“Sinn Féin will be raising the issue of illegal protests with the Chief Constable at the Policing Board, including tonight’s protest in Coleraine,” he said.
“This was clearly an organised protest which saw hundreds of people on the streets and number of bands in a clear attempt to intimidate and raise tensions in the local community.
“In recent weeks we have seen a number of these reckless and irresponsible protests taking place and the dangerous escalation of tensions has been very alarming.
“I will be asking what evidence gathering the police engaged in and what action will be taken against the people involved.
“I am calling on all political leaders to call for an end to any illegal protests.
“The PSNI also has a responsibility to police in a proactive and preventative manner to keeps communities safe.”
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