PROTESTERS from the loyalist heartland of south Belfast took to the streets to show their support for controversial DUP councillor Ruth Patterson at the weekly Union flag protest outside City Hall on Saturday.
The politician has said she plans to plead not guilty to a charge of sending a grossly offensive message on Facebook, the social media website, when she appears in court on August 22.
Cllr Patterson sparked outrage when she responded to a Facebook post written by 'Brian Ulsterman' detailing an imaginary bomb attack on a forthcoming republican parade in Castlederg, Co Tyrone.
The post, styled as a news report, described the aftermath of the incident and left senior Sinn Fein figures dead.
A DUP statement said Cllr Patterson's comment was "completely unacceptable" adding it was"well below the standard expected of a political representative and not in keeping with the DUP's values and ethos".
Cllr Patterson, an ex-UDR member, released a statement "unreservedly" apologising for her remarks, saying it was "a lapse of judgment". She added: "Murder and terrorism can never be justified under any circumstances."
It is believed police arrested Cllr Patterson at her cancer charity workplace last Friday (August 2), a move criticised by the DUP.
"We failed to understand why the police chose to conduct a sensationalist arrest rather than contact Ruth and ask her to attend an Article 10 voluntary interview," a DUP spokesman said.
The party is said to be livid that Gerry Kelly was not arrested after jumping onto the bonnet of a moving PSNI Land Rover, instead attending an interview by appointment – no action has been taken against the north Belfast Sinn Fein politician.
A DUP delegation is meeting the Chief Constable, Matt Baggott, to discuss the "perception" that unionists and nationalists are being treated differently.
It is understood Councillor Patterson is continuing with her constituency work ahead of her pending court appearance.