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Police lines jeered after anti-internment parade barred from city centre

By Rebecca Black

Published 08/08/2016

Anti-internment protesters taking part in parade in west Belfast
Anti-internment protesters taking part in parade in west Belfast

Hundreds of republicans staged a protest at police lines after an anti-internment parade was barred from entering Belfast city centre yesterday.

Prominent Lurgan dissidents Colin Duffy and Christy Robinson - who is on bail after being charged in connection with the murder of prison officer Adrian Ismay - were among those who took part amid a large police presence.

Marchers and supporters at PSNI lines cheered as a speaker called for the release of two men convicted of the murder of PSNI Constable Stephen Carroll in 2009 - Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton.

The Anti-Internment League had applied for the now annual march - which marks the anniversary of the introduction of detention without trial on August 5 1971 - to walk from Andersonstown in west Belfast to City Hall.

However, the march was barred from entering the city centre by the Parades Commission.

Participants walked until stopped by a solid line of police Land Rovers and riot squad officers at the junction of Divis Street and Barrack Street.

Three groups from the head of the parade turned their backs on officers and held up banners in support of imprisoned Palestinian hunger striker Bilal Kayed and the 'Craigavon Two' - McConville and Wootton.

Two republican bands played music loudly as they approached police lines and walked on the spot for a short time as onlookers jeered at officers and shouted "freedom to walk".

The crowd remained for half-an-hour listening to speeches.

Community activist Gerard Fitzpatrick claimed to the crowd that internment still existed today under a different guise.

He was speaking in support of Londonderry republican Tony Taylor, who is currently in Maghaberry Prison after his licence was revoked by former Secretary of State Theresa Villiers in March after he was deemed a "risk to the public".

A second speaker spoke in support of McConville and Wootton, claiming they had been wrongly convicted.

Following the speeches the parade participants and supporters dispersed peacefully.

Last year there was minor trouble in the Ardoyne area - nine police officers were slightly injured when at least half-a-dozen petrol bombs, bricks, bottles and other missiles were thrown, and four people were arrested.

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin said he was pleased that this year's parade had passed off peacefully and described the major security operation as "proportionate".

"As in previous years, the foremost consideration of my officers today was to keep people safe and ensure that the parade passed off peacefully and within the law, that the rights of all those involved were protected and that the Parades Commission determination was upheld," he said. "While an appropriate and proportionate policing operation was put in place for these reasons, once the parade had dispersed, the area quickly returned to normal and all roads were re-opened."

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