56 officers hurt in Belfast riots
Fifty six police officers were injured during loyalist riots in Belfast city centre in a night of chaotic violence that Northern Ireland's Chief Constable has described as mindless anarchy.
Protesters who ran amok through central streets and attacked police with missiles, including scaffolding poles and paving stones ripped up from a main shopping district, have scarred the city's reputation, Matt Baggott said.
The region's top officer issued a challenge to politicians and community leaders to act like "statesmen" in the wake of the disorder and unequivocally condemn those responsible.
The violence erupted in the Royal Avenue area, a usually busy commercial street close to City Hall, as more than a thousand loyalist demonstrators gathered to protest at the republican rally to mark the introduction of internment without trial in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.
Four officers required hospital treatment. Police, who deployed water canon and 26 plastic baton rounds in a bid to quell the unrest, have arrested seven people so far, but have warned that many more will follow.
"I know that 99%, if not more, of the population will stand with me in utterly condemning those who scarred the reputation of our beautiful city last night," said Mr Baggott.
"Those people had no intention of peaceful protest, they lack self respect and they lack dignity."
Mr Baggott, who warned that the "prisons would be bulging" once the police had identified and arrested those responsible, added: "The only voices we should hear now are those unequivocally condemning the violence and supporting fully the actions of the police and the rule of law and I don't want to hear any excuses for the disgraceful scenes that took place last night, because quite frankly there aren't any."
The trouble broke out as the city hosts thousands of international visitors attending the World Police and Fire Games.
Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers condemned the rioters. She said: "Last night's violence and attacks on police officers were shameful. After success for Northern Ireland this summer as host to both the G8 Summit (in Co Fermanagh in June) and the World Police and Fire Games, disorder on the streets is a hugely regrettable step backwards."