Belfast Telegraph

Warning as youths gather for fights 'armed with hammers'

By Claire Williamson

Parents have been warned to keep a close eye on their children's activities after crowds of young people gathered in the hope of watching a fight which had been arranged on social media.

Police received a number of reports from members of the public of young people gathering in the Duncairn Gardens and Nelson Street area of north Belfast on Wednesday night.

Local residents claimed youths entered a park in the area armed with hammers and knives.

Police patrolled the area and said there was no criminal activity detected despite a number of youths being present.

Local reports suggested the fight was to be between two boys from the Tigers Bay and New Lodge areas but it is unclear whether the fight took place.

Police have appealed to parents to "take responsibility" on the whereabouts of their children.

Residents held a peaceful protest on Thursday night against the pre-arranged fights.

Local community worker Gerard O'Reilly said: "It's called one-on-one fights but it's a group of 25/30 who come out to view the fight. Both groups bring crowds with them."

He added: "I would appeal to parents to be aware of where your young people are going at night."

Mr O'Reilly said he was not aware of hammers being used in the incident.

Tigers Bay resident Bill Hill said: "I don't know where 'organised fight' came from.

"I think it's the police putting a cap on trouble at the interface.

"Whether there was an organised fight or not, a crowd of republican youths came in, right in to the middle of Tigers Bay to a kids' play park and started swinging hammers about."

Inspector Roy Watton said young people were not aware of the "serious consequences" of engaging in such behaviour.

He continued: "Those young people, who are also encouraged through social media posts to travel to locations where they have no knowledge of the area, run the risk of finding themselves at an interface."

"I would appeal to parents to take responsibility regarding the whereabouts of their children and to know what their children are doing to ensure that my officers don't come knocking on their door to inform them that their child has become involved in criminal activity and is being reported to the court."

Supt Muir Clarke said a similar incident happened on the same night in another area of north Belfast where four arrests were made.

DUP councillor Guy Spence said: "I would urge all young people to play a proactive role and a productive role in the communities and not engage in such events which have a negative knock-on effect on the communities they are a part of."

Investigations are ongoing and police are monitoring social media in the area.

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