Two youths arrested after ‘disgraceful’ disorder following anti-protocol rally

Police came under attack with missiles and fireworks in Belfast on Wednesday night,
Two youths arrested after ‘disgraceful’ disorder following anti-protocol rally

By Rebecca Black, PA

Two youths have been arrested following “disgraceful” disorder in Belfast after a rally against the Brexit protocol.

Police came under attack with missiles and fireworks close to a peaceline on Wednesday evening.

The disorder came on Lanark Way in the loyalist Shankill Road area, there was also disorder on the nationalist Springfield Road side of the peace wall.

Two males, aged 12 and 15 years, were arrested on suspicion of riotous behaviour and have since been released on bail as police enquiries continue.

Police said officers were deployed in both areas from around 5pm.

A PSNI spokesman said a small protest on Lanark Way obstructed the road for a period of time, disorder then broke out involving both sides of the community and continued for several hours with items being burnt on the roads as missiles were thrown at police officers and their vehicles.

He said it was “extremely fortunate” that there were no reports of injuries to members of the public and police officers,

“A number of police vehicles were damaged by masonry attacks. Calm was restored to the area by around 10.30pm,” he said.

Disorder in Belfast
Police officers in riot gear by their vehicles near to the loyalist Shankill Road during a protest against the Northern Ireland Protocol. (Brian Lawless/PA)

Chief Inspector Darren Fox described the scenes as “totally unacceptable behaviour”.

“The disgraceful scenes of disorder seen this evening put members of the public and the responding police officers in real danger and must be condemned by all,” he said.

“The totally unacceptable behaviour by those intent on trouble caused significant inconvenience to the local community and only served to heighten community tensions across the area.

“I would like to thank local community representatives and youth workers for their influence and assistance in preventing further disorder.

“I would appeal for those involved in disorder to consider the choices they make in coming out onto the streets to attack police, property and their own communities.”

Sinn Féin MLA Pat Sheehan condemned those who organised the anti-protocol protest.

“I condemn the trouble on the Springfield Road and on Lanark Way this evening,” he said.

“There is absolutely no place in our society for this needless violence and local residents deserve to live in peace.

“Tonight’s trouble is a direct consequence of the dangerous and irresponsible stunt organised by loyalists at the Lanark Way interface this evening.

“This so-called anti-Protocol protest was deliberately organised at this interface with the sole intention of heightening tensions and causing trouble.

“I am calling on political unionism to show some leadership and call for an immediate end to all protests at interface areas before someone is seriously injured, and they should tone down the provocative and dishonest rhetoric.”

SDLP West Belfast representative Paul Doherty called for a permanent end to disorder at interface areas in the community.

“The scenes in west Belfast this evening have been highly regrettable. I went to the area to appeal to our young people not to engage in anti-social and dangerous behaviour that does nothing but cause misery to the long-suffering people of this community and put their own future at risk,” he said.

“There can be no excuse for attacking police officers who are doing their best to keep the community safe. The young people taking part in these incidents are likely to end up with a criminal record or worse and I would urge them to think twice before they act.

“The violence on the streets of west Belfast this evening has little to do with Brexit. It’s about communities that have been abandoned and led astray by their politicians. Our young people are frustrated because of the high levels of poverty, unemployment and educational underachievement in these areas and this is what we need to be focusing on tackling.”

Serious disorder erupted in the Lanark Way in April, which was partly attributed to loyalist anger at a trade border in the Irish Sea under the Protocol’s post-Brexit arrangements.

Earlier this week, a bus was burnt out in Newtownards in an attack politicians linked to loyalist opposition to the protocol.

Northern Ireland Protocol
The scene on Abbott Drive in Newtownards near Belfast, after a bus was hijacked and set alight in an attack politicians have linked to loyalist opposition to Brexit’s Northern Ireland Protocol (David Young/PA)

The attack in the predominantly unionist area happened on the day set by the DUP earlier in the autumn to pull down the institutions at Stormont if major changes to the protocol had not been secured.

It was condemned by unionist leaders.

The DUP has not yet withdrawn ministers from the Executive, insisting progress is being made in efforts to dismantle the contentious Irish Sea border.

Opposition to the arrangements that have created trade barriers between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK was a factor behind rioting that flared in several loyalist areas across the region in April.

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