Marchers and police clash at Tour of North parade in Belfast
Published 20/06/2011 | 09:00
Violent clashes have marred the first contentious parade of Northern Ireland's marching season.
Bricks and bottles were thrown at police in north Belfast as the Tour of the North turned ugly when two feeder parades were re-routed from the interface area in Ardoyne.
Riot police were forced to move in when violence flared at the notorious flashpoint.
A short time earlier there had been some minor scuffles between police and marchers when officers blocked the two parades from continuing along their chosen route following a ruling by the Parades Commission.
A number of supporters attempted to force their way through police lines as a letter of protest was handed over to the PSNI.
One marcher shouted at officers: “How are we supposed to get home? We are being held to ransom by those people who threw a brick at one of your officers last year. It wasn’t us who attacked one of your own. It was them.”
Trouble escalated after a group of teenage girls who were supporting the marchers jumped on top of a PSNI Land Rover and began jeering at a crowd that had gathered in the nationalist area across the road.
A number of loyalist youths then began throwing bricks, bottles and other missiles towards police and nationalists.
Community and political leaders were in the area in a bid to help calm the situation.
A large number of officers had kept a low profile earlier in the evening in the hope that the parade would pass peacefully, but they were able to move in quickly when the situation became hostile.
There had been concern that violence may flare after tension mounted on Thursday evening during counter-protests from both sides of the community.
Last year the area was the scene of several nights of rioting during the marching season, with a number of officers being injured, including a police woman who had a concete block dropped on her head. During last year’s violence police were forced to fire a number of plastic bullets.
The annual Tour of the North parade is seen as one of the most contentious of Northern Ireland's marching season. The Parades Commission rerouted two feeder parades away from an interface area in Ardoyne, which has been the scene of previous clashes — including last Twelfth of July. In its ruling, the parades body said there had been a willingness on both sides to talk, but that no agreement was reached.