Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Trouble flares at loyalist band parade in Rasharkin

Stand-off: Loyalist bandsmen and villagers in Rasharkin last night
Stand-off: Loyalist bandsmen and villagers in Rasharkin last night

An evening of tension turned to violence as trouble flared at one of Northern Ireland's most contentious marches last night.

Riot police were deployed to the mainly nationalist village of Rasharkin after petrol bombs were thrown following the relatively peaceful parade of over 40 loyalist bands.

There were fears there would be further violent scenes throughout the night and a large number of police, including police dogs and members of the PSNI tactical support group, remained at the scene.

There was a heavy police presence throughout the march, with several dozen police Land Rovers and high numbers of the tactical support unit officers visible.

While the march began relatively peacefully there was unrest at several points throughout the evening, with bottles and other items thrown at the parade as it passed the protesters, who lined the streets holding placards calling for an end to sectarian marches.

Some golf balls were thrown as the last of the bands passed through the village.

The demonstrators were held back from the parade by barricades and police officers and marshals were on hand to ensure the bands moved quickly through the street without engaging with the protesters.

However, a number of bands played The Sash as they passed by the protesters and carried paramilitary flags during the procession.

Several residents also reported damage to property and vehicles by supporters of the bands.

One 17-year-old youth, who did not want to be named, said his car was kicked by a loyalist supporter as he tried to get to his home.

The Parades Commission had appealed for calm ahead of the parade.

Its chair said it was clear there were serious tensions in the area. The commission had ruled that no paramilitary displays or emblems were to be included in the march.

It also limited the number on protest to 130, including marshals.

There have been sectarian tensions in the Rasharkin over recent months.

Sinn Fein argued that the march should not have been permitted in light of the current problems.

The DUP said the bands had a right to parade.

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