Cocky Jamie Bryson taunts PSNI Chief Constable as he dodges arrest over city flag protest marches
One of the main organisers of the Union flag protests has publicly taunted the PSNI for failing to find him when they went to question him as part of a police crackdown on the illicit demonstrations.
A day after Chief Constable Matt Baggott warned that illegal demonstrations must stop – signalling a tougher stance against the protests – officers searched the homes of prominent protest organisers Willie Frazer and Jamie Bryson.
Frazer was arrested in his home village of Markethill in Co Armagh Wednesday morning and held for questioning on suspicion of organising and participating in unlawful parades. But when police arrived at Bryson's north Down home they were unable to locate him.
It is understood they did seize his car.
A few hours after the police operation was launched, Bryson posted a video of himself on the internet goading the PSNI for not being able to find him.
"I'm sitting here because they can't find me... perhaps Matt (Baggott) will think how much money he is going to waste chasing me. He needs to employ better tracking devices," he said in the footage.
Bryson added: "This isn't 1930s Germany. They will not break me, they will not break Willie Frazer and they will not break the protests... I have just exercised my God-given right to peaceful protest.
"If the PSNI think they're going to squash that... they've another thing coming. No surrender."
Policing Board member Conall McDevitt said that Bryson needs to "stop behaving like a child and start behaving like a man".
"Jamie Bryson needs to reflect on the fact that he may well be facing quite serious charges. If he truly believes in the United Kingdom and its constitution he should respect its laws," the SDLP man added.
The PSNI's crackdown on the illegal flag protests comes after the Parades Commission said it had no role to play in the vast majority of the demonstrations.
This tougher approach will be under scrutiny on Saturday when protesters prepare to stage their weekly march to Belfast City Hall.
There were attempts on social networking sites last night to organise "the biggest protest yet" at the City Hall.
And Bryson also used his homemade video to call on "every Ulsterman to take to the streets to support people's democratic right to support peaceful protests".
Mr McDevitt said that the overwhelming majority of people in Northern Ireland support the rule of law and will therefore support the PSNI in this tougher stance.
"I think the time is long past that the police needed to robustly enforce the rule of law. I hope the police are going to be able to follow through with prosecutions. I support this police action that we have seen today.
"We need to end this notion there was any legitimacy or legal basis for what has been going on over the past 13-14 weeks."
PSNI says enough is enough, but sternest test awaits
By Deborah McAleese
The focus of police attention yesterday on Willie Frazer and Jamie Bryson – two of the most prominent organisers of the Union flag protests – was a clear indication that the PSNI has decided enough is enough.
With the Parades Commission pretty much washing its hands of the issue this week by saying it has no role to play in the vast majority of flag protests, the PSNI has been left completely alone to sort out the mess.
The force has come under heavy criticism for facilitating these protests for so long.
There had been concern among experienced officers that to try and physically stop the protests would inflame an already volatile situation, possibly sparking another Drumcree.
But they have now realised that no political answer to the problem is forthcoming and it is now time for them to assert their authority.
The test will come on Saturday during the weekly march by protesters from east Belfast to the City Hall.
Already loyalists have been busy using social networking sites in an attempt to organise "the biggest protest yet" at the City Hall, in a show of defiance at this tougher police approach.
There will be a lot of work going on behind the scenes among police, politicians and community representatives ahead of Saturday to try and prevent any major disturbances.