Belfast Telegraph

Belfast protest rallies PSNI response 'proportionate' after smoke bombs thrown and riot police deployed

Smoke bombs were thrown and riot police deployed as hundreds attended a separate parade and anti-racism demonstration at Belfast City Hall on Saturday.

There was a heavy police presence in the city centre as the UK Freedom March - which set off from the Sandy Row area - came face-to-face with an anti-fascist counter demonstration, United Against Racism in front of city hall.

Police said there was a few incidents of minor disorder and the PSNI response was "proportionate". There were no arrests.

" n Evidence Gathering Team was on duty and police will now review all evidence gathered by them and if any offences or breaches of the Parades Commission determinations are detected, a police investigation will be carried out,” said Chief Inspector Kelly Moore.  

The UK Freedom March, organisers said, was intended to "highlight Brexit and injustice in the UK" with a similar parade happening in London. Saturday marked two years since the historic vote for the UK to leave the EU. Pro-EU demonstrations were also held across the UK.

Assurances were given to the Parades Commission - which raised concern about the late nature of its application - that behaviours would be "better managed" than a previous related event held in support of Tommy Robinson earlier in the month.

UK freedom march and protest along with United Against Racism counter-protest at Belfast City Hall. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

The United Against Racism protest purpose, organisers said, was to show solidarity across the community in a counter-demonstration to the UK Freedom March.

They too gave assurances it would be peaceful and managed. Many held "migrants welcome fascists not" placards at the event.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 23rd June 2018 UK freedom march and protest along with United Against Racism counter-protest at Belfast City Hall. Picture by Jonathan Porter/PressEye

The event was held in response to far-right demonstrations supporting the English Defence League's Tommy Robinson after his conviction for contempt of court.

People Before Profit leader Gerry Carroll has appealed to "all progressives" in the city to join a protest on Saturday.

It comes just two weeks after men were seen making Nazi salutes at a 'Free Tommy Robinson' rally in Belfast.

On June 9 hundreds of Tommy Robinson supporters turned out to protest against the convicted mortgage fraudster being jailed for contempt of court.

Mr Carroll claimed the "racist, sexist bile" was interspersed with "Nazi salutes from boneheaded thugs".

Councillor Jolene Bunting, who helped organise the Free Tommy Robinson protest, was later accused of "bringing Nazis to Belfast".

She condemned the salute.

"It was completely out of order, but it was taken out of context," she claimed.

"It was made in response to an insult in which the individual was called a Nazi."

She also shrugged off Mr Carroll's "astounding" criticism and accused him of having a short memory.

"These people are not fascists, racists or Nazis but fathers, mothers, daughters and sons who support freedom," she said.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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