Anti-G8 rally passes off peacefully
An anti-G8 rally in Belfast has passed off peacefully amid an unprecedented security operation.
Fears that extremists were planning to hijack the trade union-organised event and spark disorder proved misplaced as the demonstration took place without incident. An hour after the rally finished no arrests had been reported.
A police estimate that 1,500 people took part may have been on the conservative side, but the total did not approach the 5,000 predicted to attend - a fact which may have been influenced by horrendous weather conditions.
Rain poured down almost constantly as demonstrators, advocating a range of both local and global issues, marched through the city centre ahead of the rally at City Hall.
A flash point could have potentially developed outside the landmark as the march was met by around 100 Northern Ireland based Union flag protesters, who hold weekly pickets at City Hall to object to Belfast City Council's decision last year to limit the number of days the flag flies on the building.
While participants in the separate protests would be at odds on many issues, including the conflict in the Middle East, direct confrontation was prevented by a massed line of police officers.
There were a number of isolated incidents where police had to intervene to limit the movement of small groups or individual loyalists, but nothing more serious developed.
The security operation around the event was on a scale not witnessed in the city before, with hundreds of public order officers flanking the rally. Scores of fortified Land Rover-type vehicles were parked up on side streets ready to be deployed while police helicopters circled constantly overhead.
Security will be as tight on Monday when US President Barack Obama visits ahead of travelling down to Co Fermanagh for the start of the G8 summit.
For the days around the G8 police have made 260 temporary holding cells available for potential trouble makers while 16 judges are on stand-by to preside over special courts. But at the Belfast protest at least, authorities will be relieved such additional capacity was not required.