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Woman 'threw brick at police' after republican parade was halted in Belfast

Published 10/08/2015

Water cannon were deployed by police
Water cannon were deployed by police

A mother-of-three charged with rioting after police halted a republican parade in Belfast was at the head of the 60-strong crowd that attacked officers, a court has heard.

Sarah Kelly Umney, 36, threw a brick directly at police and attempted to rip a baton from an officer's gun belt during the disturbances around the Oldpark Road in the north of the city on Sunday, a policewoman told Belfast Magistrates' Court.

The halting of the anti-internment march on the road had passed off without incident an hour before the disorder broke out.

Nine officers sustained minor injuries when a crowd of republicans threw petrol bombs, masonry, bottles and paint bombs at them.

Umney was one of four people arrested on the day. The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has warned that more arrests will follow once evidence is gathered from police camera recordings of the rioting.

The accused, from Oldpark Road, is charged with riotous behaviour, four counts of assault on police, resisting police and obstructing police.

A 53-year-old man charged with common assault and disorderly behaviour is due to appear in court next month while the two other arrested men, aged 21 and 24, remain in police custody.

During the short hearing, a police officer told district judge Fiona Bagnall she could connect Umney with the charges.

As the accused watched on from the dock, the policewoman said she was among a crowd of 60 people who attacked police.

"She was at the head of the crowd and antagonised police verbally and physically," she said. "She attempted to pull a police baton from an officer's gun belt."

The officer told the judge Umney was warned on a number of occasions to "back off".

"The defendant ignored all warnings and continued to run at police," she said.

The policewoman said when the accused was observed holding a brick, officers told her to drop it.

"She told police to f*** off and threw the brick at officers," she said.

The officer said two young children watched Umney attempt to break another brick in two - an action she alleged prompted them to start throwing masonry themselves.

She said police eventually managed to isolate the accused from the rest of crowd and arrest her.

Despite objections from the police, judge Bagnall granted Umney bail on a number of strict conditions. She has to reside outside Belfast, stay away from all parades and protests, observe a curfew and refrain from consuming alcohol. She is due before the judge again on September 7.

Sunday's disturbances were sporadic in nature.

The parade had originally been granted permission by the Parades Commission to pass through the city centre, but only before 1.30pm.

The restriction was imposed by the Government-appointed adjudication body to minimise disruption to city life.

In previous years the parade has proceeded through the city.

Last year there were minor disturbances at the controversial event but in 2013 almost 60 police officers were injured when loyalist protesters rioted.

When the 1.30pm deadline passed, the parade had not even left its designated start point in the nationalist Ardoyne area. Police commanders announced that it would be halted.

As loyalist counter protests in the city centre dispersed, police rolled out a huge security operation to stop the march on Oldpark Road around 2.5 miles away.

Parade participants, including a number of bands, marched up to the police cordon. They held a rally for around 30 minutes, with speeches, cheering and music. At the conclusion organisers urged people to disperse peacefully. The parade turned and went back up Oldpark Road without incident.

However, an hour later trouble broke out in the area where the parade had been stopped.

The now annual march is organised to mark the introduction of internment without trial by the Stormont administration, with the support of the UK Government, during the height of the Troubles in August 1971.

The controversial policy of detaining terrorist suspects without trial ended in 1975. However, the parade organisers - the Anti-Internment League - allege it is still effectively operated by the state authorities in the present day.

The two men in custody have been charged with aiding and abetting the throwing of petrol bombs and possessing petrol bombs in suspicious circumstances.

Both are due to appear at Belfast Magistrates' Court on Tuesday.

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