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Police call for calm after gang fight erupts into full-scale riot

By Amanda Poole

The PSNI has appealed for calm in west Belfast after six police officers were injured when serious “orchestrated” violence erupted.

Police have vowed to deploy extra resources in the area after officers came under attack from a crowd of around 100 people on Saturday night.

Baton rounds were fired during the disturbances in the Broadway and Bog Meadow areas which left six PSNI officers injured, with one struck on the head by an iron bar. Petrol bombs and fireworks were also thrown at police responding to reports of crowds gathering at 8.30pm on Saturday.

Officers searched undergrowth and discovered a large quantity of items to make petrol bombs.

Police were forced to close the Stockman's Lane off slip and the Westlink at Clifton Street at around 11.40pm amid fears the violence would affect drivers.

Rioters also broke into a fast food restaurant and significant damage was caused. Two tills from the premises were later recovered.

The area returned to calm at 3am yesterday and the Police Ombudsman was informed that baton rounds were fired.

Saturday’s violence came after fighting broke out between rival groups in the same area on Friday evening, with missiles thrown at passing cars and damage to police vehicles.

One man was arrested on suspicion of possession of an offensive weapon and another arrested on suspicion of riotous behaviour. Both were later released pending a report to the PPS.

Area Commander for west Belfast Chief Inspector Emma Mooney said: “The level of violence, running into four or five hours was disgraceful, and is to be condemned. I am pleased to say that all officers have fully recovered from this attack. At this time of year tensions are raised, but an awful lot of hard work and effort has gone on in west and south Belfast and this will not be undone by reckless individuals. They aren’t welcome by ourselves or the community.”

Ms Mooney appealed to the community “to display influence to ensure a peaceful and happy summer season for everyone”.

Sinn Fein councillor Breige Brownlee said: “Historically there are clashes at this time of year. Residents say the rioters don’t represent the people and are calling for them to stay away.

“What happened was recreational rioting, with hoods from Ballymurphy and Divis arriving in cars. This area deserves peace and is a not a showground for anti-social behaviour. Sinn Fein support the community workers on both sides who are trying to get through the marching season together.”

Acting chairman of the Policing Board, Brian Rea, also condemned the attacks on police officers “who were doing their job to keep the peace and protect the public”.

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