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Anti-internment parade two years ago was scene of violence

By Victoria O'Hara

Two years ago the anti-internment parade, which marked the anniversary of the introduction of detention without trial in Northern Ireland in 1971, descended into serious violence on the streets of Belfast city centre.

Fifty-six police officers were injured during the subsequent loyalist rioting that shut down the city's main thoroughfare in a night of chaotic violence.

The parade had been due to pass through Royal Avenue - one of the city's main shopping areas - but the marchers were prevented from using the route by the loyalist protest.

Police said they came under heavy and sustained attack by crowds "intent on creating disorder".

Riot police were attacked with a sustained barrage of bricks, bottles and fireworks,

Police deployed two water cannons and fired more than 20 plastic baton rounds in a bid to quell the disorder.

A number of parked vehicles were also set on fire in the North Street area.

The trouble occurred as the city played host to thousands of international visitors attending the World Police and Fire Games.

Speaking at the time, the then Police Service of Northern Ireland Assistant Chief Constable, George Hamilton, condemned those responsible for the violence.

"As Northern Ireland moves ahead, the effect of tonight's violence has the potential to damage the local economy and the reputation of Belfast as a tourist destination," he said.

Last year, in a bid to prevent similar scenes, the PSNI mounted a major security operation.

Dozens of police in riot gear lined the route on a Sunday afternoon to keep groups apart, while metal security fences were set up throughout the city centre. A water cannon was also on standby.

Amid a tense atmosphere, a small number of protesters threw fireworks, plastic bottles and coins at the parade. No-one was injured.

A number of diversions were in place around Belfast to facilitate the parade and protests, causing some traffic disruption, with motorists asked to avoid many areas.

The area was reopened to Sunday shoppers shortly after the parade passed.

Belfast Telegraph


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