Belfast: Police And Delinquent Youths Clash As 12th July Orange Marches End: UPDATED

12 Jul

Catholic youths clash with police in Ardoyne in north Belfast, after police cordoned off the area to allow through a Protestant parade Tuesday July 12, 2011. Riots broke out in the nationalist areas in the west of the city late last night and continued through the early hours of this morning. Trouble flared during celebrations by Orangemen, as tens of thousands of members of the loyal orders walk the streets to commemorate the 1690 Battle of the Boyne. (AP Photo/Paul Faith/PA) UNITED KINGDOM OUT

Catholic youths clash with police in Ardoyne in north Belfast, after police cordoned …

BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP)Police firing plastic bullets and powerful water cannons forced Catholic militants away from a key Belfast road Tuesday as Northern Ireland’s annual day of Protestant marches reached a tense climax.

Catholic youths lashed out at police both before and after the marches by the Orange Order, a Protestant brotherhood whose yearly July 12 demonstrations celebrate 17th-century military triumphs over Catholics — and often inspire a violent response from the province’s minority.

Hundreds of mostly teenage Catholics, who covered their faces with masks and hoods, waged running street battles with heavily girded police on the streets of Ardoyne, a hard-line Irish nationalist enclave in north Belfast.

Police reported standoffs and smaller riots in several other Catholic parts of this British territory, where a 1998 peace accord and 2007 creation of a Catholic-Protestant government have failed to defuse Northern Ireland’s summertime tribal clashes over marching rights.

The Ardoyne rioters, cheered by much larger crowds of Catholic spectators, tried to force their way on to the major local road in protest at a peaceful Protestant parade that police had just permitted to pass under strict conditions — including a requirement that the Protestants march to the beat of a lone snare drum.

The police, determined to prevent direct Protestant-Catholic street fighting, held their ground backed by three massive mobile water cannons that doused street fighters, journalists and spectators alike.

As darkness fell, the rioters reinforced their salvos of firecrackers, rocks, bricks and bottles with gasoline-filled Molotov cocktails. Some burst harmlessly on the sides of police armored vehicles or more alarmingly amid rows of police, who wore helmets and flame-retardant boiler suits. Some rioters shouted “Burn! Burn!” as officers frantically batted out the flames.

Officers responded with dozens of single, targeted shots from plastic-bullet guns designed to knock down individual rioters without seriously wounding them. One rioter was seen trying to throw a Molotov cocktail, only to drop it as his feet when struck by one of the blunt-nosed cylinders.

It appeared certain that the casualty list would surge from Tuesday’s earlier total of 24 police officers and an unknown number of rioters. Typically, rioters injured in Belfast avoid hospitals because they face police arrest there.

In the predawn hours before Tuesday’s Orange parades, Belfast Catholic youths rioted at three front-line points near Protestant districts. In the worst violence near Northern Ireland’s main M1 motorway, rioters hijacked a bus and tried to crash it into police lines but missed and crashed into a sidewalk.

Last year, Catholic clashes with police both before and after the Protestants’ traditional July 12 parades ran for three nights and left 83 officers wounded, mostly on the bitterly contested streets of Ardoyne, long renowned as a power base of the outlawed Irish Republican Army.

“The Twelfth” officially commemorates the July 12, 1690, triumph of Protestant King William of Orange versus his Catholic rival for the English throne, James II, at the Battle of the Boyne south of Belfast. Underscoring their devotion to Protestantism and a British identity, the Orangemen march under banners depicting the British crown on an open Bible.

Orangemen once marched wherever they wanted in Northern Ireland, a state created on the back of Orange power as the predominantly Catholic rest of Ireland won independence from Britain in the early 1920s.

Catholic hostility to Protestant parades helped ignite warfare over Northern Ireland’s future that claimed more than 3,600 lives from the late 1960s to mid-1990s, when paramilitary cease-fires finally took hold.

As the IRA lowered its guns, Sinn Fein activists began blocking Orangemen’s traditional marching routes in several cities, towns and villages. The tactic brought Northern Ireland to the brink of civil war — and ended in broad defeat for the Orangemen, who refused to negotiate on their marching rights until it was too late.

Britain punished the Orangemen’s stubbornness by imposing bans on parades that met the heaviest opposition from Catholics. Orangemen spent years mounting violent standoffs with British security forces in hopes of regaining lost ground, but eventually gave up.

The Crumlin Road beside Ardoyne is the only remaining parading point in Belfast that inspires recurring violence. There, the Orangemen have no obvious alternative way to march from their lodges to central Belfast and back.

In 2005, IRA dissidents opposed to their side’s cease-fire first turned Ardoyne into the major July 12 sectarian flashpoint. They hurled homemade grenades at police from Ardoyne shop rooftops, wounding more than 100 officers. On Tuesday, police seized control of those rooftops — only to see the Ardoyne extremists shift the battleground to a few streets away.

NEWS UPDATE:

Bricks and fireworks have been hurled at police during a nationalist demonstration in Belfast.

 
 Belfast - Bricks hurled at PSNI officers

Belfast – Bricks hurled at PSNI officers
 
 Belfast - Water canon deployed and baton rounds fired

Belfast – Water canon deployed and baton rounds fired
 
Belfast - 22 PSNI officers injured in riots
Belfast – 22 PSNI officers injured in riots
 
 Belfast - 51 plastic baton rounds fired

Belfast – 51 plastic baton rounds fired
 

Water cannons have been deployed and three baton rounds were discharged by officers.

Petrol bombs have also been fired in Ardoyne.

A nationalist protest march is being held to coincide with an Orange Order parade through the sectarian interface following the 12 July commemorations.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland has appealed for calm after overnight rioting left more than 20 officers injured.

A controversial 12 July Orange Parade in Ardoyne in Belfast passed off without incident this morning.

A big security operation is in place again this evening.

The PSNI said: ‘The policing operation in North Belfast tonight will be appropriate and proportionate.’

A total of 24 police officers were injured following serious rioting in west Belfast. Four PSNI officers remain in hospital.

Crowds of up to 200 nationalists threw over 40 petrol bombs and masonry at officers in riot gear.

There were 51 plastic baton rounds fired in the Broadway and Oldpark areas of the city when police lines came under attack.

A water cannon was deployed during the disturbances at Broadway.

Police are investigating reports that gunshots were fired in the area.

The trouble flared during loyalist celebrations to mark the height of the marching season.

The emergency services in Northern Ireland received a total of 180 fire calls over a seven-hour period up until 1am, representing a 65% increase over the same period last year.

At the peak of activity, they were processing one call every 75 seconds with the majority of these from within the greater Belfast area.

Fire crews from the Springfield Fire Station also came under attack in west Belfast from stone throwing youths but escaped injury.

12 July parades

Thousands of Orange Order members took part in the annual 12 July parades at 18 venues.

The majority of the demonstrations passed off without incident.

In Dublin, President Mary McAleese marked her last 12 July in office, with a garden party at Áras an Uachtaráin for several hundred guests from both sides of the border.

Elsewhere, a number of people had to leave their homes for a time early this morning in north Belfast following reports of a suspicious vehicle in Ballysillan.

British army bomb experts were called to the scene at Glenbryn Parade at around 12.30am.

The alert was later declared a hoax and local residents were allowed to return home.

NEWS UPDATE:

Police fired baton rounds at rioters as fresh trouble erupted in Belfast this evening.

Petrol bombs, bricks, bottles and fireworks were hurled at officers during the stand-off in Ardoyne in north Belfast. A car was hijacked and set alight. Police water cannons were deployed.

The trouble followed a nationalist protest march held to coincide with an Orange Order parade through the sectarian interface following the Twelfth commemorations.

Ardoyne has been the scene of serious trouble in the past between police and nationalists following similar loyal order parades. It is a working-class residential area of mainly terraced housing.

The water cannon was also used to extinguish a fire on a shop roof tonight.

A large crowd of loyalists gathered nearby. The parade passed peacefully past Ardoyne shops and there was a silent protest by nationalist residents.

A PSNI spokeswoman said: “Shortly before 7pm this evening a number of missiles, including bricks and masonry, were thrown at police in the Estorial Park area.”

She said three baton rounds were discharged by officers. Fireworks were also used by rioters.

Police remain in the area and are working to restore calm.

Today’s Twelfth of July celebrations by Orangemen involved tens of thousands of members of the loyal orders walking the streets to commemorate the 1690 Battle of the Boyne victory of a Protestant over a Catholic monarch.

Last night, violence broke out in the nationalist areas of Broadway, Old Park and North Queen Street in the west of the city and continued through the early hours of this morning. More than 40 petrol bombs were thrown.

Police used water cannon and fired baton rounds to try to disperse crowds of between 100 and 200 people who began throwing stones and missiles at police lines in the Broadway area of the city. A total of 51 rounds were used.

A number of vehicles were reportedly hijacked, with a motorbike and at least one van set on fire, according to police.

NEWS UPDATE:

Nationalist youths and police in riot gear clash in the Ardoyne area of north BelfastEnlarge Photo

Nationalist youths and police in riot gear clash in the Ardoyne area of north Be …

Police come under attack with petrol bombs thrown by Nationalist youths in the Ardoyne area of north BelfastEnlarge Photo

Police come under attack with petrol bombs thrown by Nationalist youths in the Ardoyne …

BELFAST (Reuters) – Police fired plastic bullets and water cannon at Catholic youths in Belfast on Tuesday after rioting erupted when a Protestant parade passed their estate.

The violence came on the culmination of a season of parades by pro-British Protestants to mark a 17th-century military victory, a tradition many Catholics say is provocative.

Dozens of young people threw bottles, slates and petrol bombs in the mainly Catholic Ardoyne area after police moved in to prevent them confronting the passing Orange Order parade.

At least one car was set on fire and dozens of rounds of plastic bullets were fired. Police said most of the 500 or so parades across the province passed peacefully, but there was also isolated trouble in other areas of Belfast.

Three decades of fighting between mostly Protestant loyalists who want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom and Irish nationalists, mainly Catholics, who want it to be part of a united Ireland tore the province apart during a three-decade period known as the “Troubles.”

A 1998 peace agreement paved the way for a power-sharing government of loyalists and nationalists. Violence has subsided, but police say the threat from dissident groups opposed to the peace deal is higher than it has ever been since it was signed.

A small Orange Order parade passed the Ardoyne estate in near silence with one drummer keeping time after a government commission ordered marchers not to play their traditional drums or flutes.

A few dozen residents held a silent protest as they passed, while a small group of women sang the Irish national anthem.

But hundreds of others were pinned by police vans and officers in riot gear into an estate a hundred metres from the marchers, a move residents said was heavy-handed.

“It’s the same thing every year. It’s aggravation,” said Jim, a 47-year old health worker watching the parade. “We’re surrounded up here. It’s no wonder the kids have so much hatred.”

Marchers were marking King William of Orange’s victory over the Roman Catholic King James at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, which helped to secure Protestant supremacy in Ireland.

Pipe bands and drummers from Scotland joined local groups decked in orange banners and British flags for hundreds of marches across the province.

“It’s a celebration, we don’t want any trouble,” said Eddie Whyte, 42, as he marched past Belfast City Hall on Tuesday morning. “If they are offended by the British flag, maybe they shouldn’t be living in this country.”

Two dozen police officers were injured in nationalist rioting on Monday night as Protestant youths lit hundreds of bonfires, many draped in Irish flags, to mark the July 12 holiday.

Catholic and Protestant politicians have called for calm in recent days and urged people not to go into the streets to protest against the parades.

“We must not allow the progress that has been made to be thwarted by those who want to drag us back to the past,” Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson said.

Police said they had also come under attack on Tuesday evening in the mainly Catholic Markets area of Belfast, with rioters throwing bricks and fireworks and setting a car on fire.

(Reporting by Ian Graham and Conor Humphries, Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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