Dissident republicans to gather at Belfast City Hall if march banned
Dissident republicans have warned they will hold a rally outside Belfast City Hall on a busy Saturday afternoon even if their anti-internment march through the city centre is banned.
Dee Fennell of the Anti-Internment League last night said that if the Parades Commission ruled against the demonstration, as it has done for the past three years, republicans would hold a rally at the building anyway.
He claimed that it didn't require authorisation from the commission.
In their application, the organisers have filed for 1,000 demonstrators and four flute bands to take part in the march though the city centre on Saturday, August 11.
They plan to gather at Writers' Square beside St Anne's Cathedral at lunchtime and march up Royal Avenue and into Donegall Place to City Hall, where speakers will address the crowd.
Mr Fennell said: "For the past three years, our demonstration has been banned from the city centre. It is a blatant act of discrimination.
"Loyalists march through the city centre all the time, as do a range of other groups and organisations.
"If Belfast really is a shared space, there is no reason why republicans shouldn't have the same access as others."
Mr Fennell said the republican parade would follow the exact route of "LGBTQ Pride, the May Day parade, marriage equality parade, Palestinian Solidarity march and numerous Loyal Order and Somme Association parades".
The Anti-Internment League said its march was to highlight "cases of internment including those incarcerated via revocation of licence, by remand, via miscarriage of justice and through 'Garda belief evidence'".
It said such prisoners "did not receive a trial by jury".
The league said: "Despite shortening the route, ensuring it doesn't pass places of worship that could cause offence, reducing band numbers and demonstrating a willingness to engage, (our parade) has been subjected to continuing discrimination, restriction and the denial of access to Belfast city centre."
It claimed this was "based on the fact that participants include Irish republicans".
It continued: "Should this year's parade be unjustly or harshly restricted in terms of route, numbers or time then our parade notification will be withdrawn.
"Instead the Anti-Internment League will be forced to call a rally at Belfast City Hall at the notified parade assembly time with people legally assembling from and dispersing in all directions into the city centre as is our right under the European Convention on Human Rights and which cannot be infringed upon by either the Parades Commission or PSNI."
It said republicans wouldn't "tolerate being the only people denied the right to political assembly within our city centre".
The Parades Commission is expected to make a ruling on the march application later this week.
In 2015 there were clashes between the PSNI and republicans after police stopped the march from entering the city centre.
The previous year the parade went ahead amid a massive police operation which saw streets blocked off hours in advance.
In 2013, 56 PSNI officers were injured after loyalist protesters attacked the police during a parade.