Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

Ten more held over flag protests

More than 200 people have been detained since December when the row over flying the Union flag at Belfast City Hall first erupted

Ten people have been arrested in connection with union flag protests over the past month, police have revealed.

The PSNI said 239 people had been detained since December when the row over flying the Union flag at Belfast City Hall first erupted.

Of those arrested 182 have been charged with public order offences such as riotous assembly, criminal damage, affray and assault on police. A further 86 people were reported to the Public Prosecution Service - including a number who were not arrested.

Detective Superintendent Sean Wright, who is leading the investigation known as Operation Dulcet, said his officers had received strong public support.

He said: "It is vital that we all send out a message to those participating in un-notified processions and protests that such behaviour will not be tolerated. Those who break the law must face consequences for their actions. They will be dealt with appropriately and proportionately through the criminal justice system."

Recently the number of demonstrations has been dramatically scaled back. Loyalists have continued their weekly Saturday picket outside Belfast City Hall. However most have passed off without incident.

At the height of the crisis protesters clashed with police during rioting in parts of Belfast, Carrickfergus and Newtownabbey in Co Antrim. More than 100 officers were injured during the disorder.

Death threats were sent to politicians including the East Belfast MP Naomi Long from the cross-community Alliance Party whose constituency office was also targeted. A number of other Alliance Party representatives had their homes and offices vandalised or burnt out.

In March, PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott revealed that the costs for policing Union flag protests had topped £20 million.

High profile loyalists Willie Frazer, 53, from Co Armagh, and Jamie Bryson, 23, from Co Down, were remanded in custody charged with public order offences connected to the protests. Both men have since been released under strict bail conditions which ban them from taking part in any further protests.

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