Belfast Telegraph

Belfast 'Freedom Rally' marchers are outnumbered by protesters

By Andrew Madden

Hundreds of people gathered at Belfast City Hall on Saturday for a counter-protest against a 'UK Freedom Rally'.

Around 150 individuals from various right-wing groups faced off against 300 counter-protesters, comprised of citizens, elected representatives and others whom controversial Belfast City councillor Jolene Bunting has labelled the "far-left".

There was a heavy police presence around Royal Avenue and City Hall as events got under way around 2.30pm, with a barricade and 50ft buffer separating the opposing crowds.

As Independent Councillor Bunting and her protesters marched from Sandy Row to City Hall, a crowd of just over a dozen IRSP activists arrived, who were told to move on by the PSNI.

Instead they set up a few yards behind the crowd, with police officers and around a dozen Land Rovers stationed in the immediate area.

By 3.30pm, speeches had begun with various figures from across the UK and Ireland's far-right speaking.

Simultaneous counter-speeches were delivered by representatives from People before Profit, Worker's Party and Alliance.

Irish language group Cumann Ui Cheirigh was represented.

There were chants of "Immigrants Welcome" and "Muslims In - Fascists Out" as Councillor Bunting spoke to her supporters about the "fake news" media.

For the counter-protesters, People before Profit councillor Matt Collins said he was glad to see the crowd on his side of the barrier was larger than the demonstrations across the barricade, as had been the case at previous rallies in recent weeks.

"Just look around, people in this city have a proud tradition fighting fascism and, as the crowd shows, it's not what Belfast's people want," he added.

"Jolene Bunting and this far-right crowd don't seem to get the irony of this kind of nonsense in front of City Hall - a building targeted by the Nazis in World War Two."

Alliance councillor David Armitage said people in Belfast shouldn't have to protest against "dangerous ideologies", but such ideas need to be "challenged" when they appear.

It was a relatively peaceful day at City Hall, with only a few UK Freedom Rally protesters being escorted away from the protests by police for minor incidents of disorder.

Belfast Telegraph

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